Whether or not parents realize it, anxiety in children is a growing issue in our society. Children today take on many stresses that children a few decades ago might have never even considered. Furthermore, the advent of social media and the internet has made it so our society is always connected.
While this provides some benefits, it nonetheless creates many negatives. For instance, online bullying and shaming, especially among children, has increased dramatically. Also, the interconnectedness has made it so that even children have a constant fear of missing out or being left out of activities.
For parents, it’s important to know the stresses children face and how those stresses can impact their lives. In this article, we want to talk specifically about the causes and symptoms of anxiety in children. We go over how some of these stresses arise and what parents should look out for. With understanding these issues better, we hope that parents might feel empowered to address anxiety before it becomes a significant problem in their child’s life.
What Causes Anxiety in Children?
Our feelings can be complicated and hard to understand sometimes. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult to always know what causes anxiety in children. While the causes can be varied, two big contributors to look at first include brain wiring and parenting.
First, some people just have a brain wiring that leads them to feel more anxious. Furthermore, some other conditions such as ADHD can increase the likelihood of anxiety causing problems. In these types of situations, if your child simply has anxiety because of brain wiring, you might not always be able to resolve it by changing things in their environment. Instead, you might need more in-depth behavioral management, counseling, or even possibly medication.
Secondly, parenting can often cause anxiety in children. This has become a much more pervasive cause of anxiety as our culture has become more competitive and demanding. In fact, most all of us have heard of the ultra-competitive and rigorous parenting style represented by “tiger moms.” In such cases, parents put so many demands on their child and require so much that the child develops anxiety over not being able to meet all of those expectations. If you notice signs of anxiety in your child, you should examine and see if your parenting style has contributed at all to the stress.
Additionally, there do exist other significant causes of anxiety in children to be aware of. Other causes of anxiety can include other psychological disorders, health issues, fears or phobias, and other mood disorders. Finally, one underlying cause might include abuse of some kind. If a child faces hidden abuse they may develop anxiety over the situation, person, and environment. In these cases, you need to uncover and stop the abuse as soon as possible. Professional counseling then can possibly help address ongoing issues.
What Are the Effects of Anxiety in Children?
Parents need to have concern for anxiety in children as its effects can be far reaching. While we all deal with large and small stresses on a regular basis, prolonged anxiety can create significant problems in a person’s life. For a child who is still developing physically and mentally, these problems can be amplified greatly. As a result, this simply makes anxiety more problematic. At the same time, it makes quickly identifying and resolving anxiety in children paramount for parents.
Common effects of ongoing anxiety can first include a dramatic change in mood or behavior. Oftentimes, a child with constant anxiety will appear sullen and unengaged. They might show little to no interest in many of the things they used to enjoy. Additionally, a child with anxiety may also have violent mood swings, where they become angry or upset over minor slights.
More serious effects of anxiety in children would include developing other disorders. For instance, persistent untreated anxiety can result in an eating disorder. Some children suffering from anxiety might change their diets and eating habits. Over time, this can turn into anorexia or bulimia or another chronic eating disorder.
Chronic depression can also result from anxiety. Many times, children with anxiety withdraw from peers. They tend to perform worse academically or in sports or community activities. If these issues persist into teenage or adult years, they can turn into drug or alcohol abuse, as well.
All of these effects can be problematic for children and their parents. The best way to make sure the effects don’t get much worse is to identify and resolve anxiety as early as possible. Let’s talk through some of the ways to spot anxiety early.
How can you Spot Anxiety in Children?
Since the effects of anxiety in children can be so far reaching, parents need to understand how to identify signs of anxiety in children. Typically, when someone, especially a child faces daily anxiety, their mood and behavior changes dramatically. These shifts in behavior and attitude should provide first indicators to something going on.
If you notice a dramatic change in your child’s behavior, you should start asking questions. Ask them if they feel nervous or anxious about anything in their daily routine? Find out if they have any constant worries or fears that upset them regularly. Getting to the heart of these things can lead you closer to understanding where the anxiety arises from.
Other symptoms of anxiety to keep an eye out for would include withdrawing from social activities. Also, sometimes children with anxiety experience more nightmares and have unsettled sleep. They might express or demonstrate a low self-esteem and might lash out at any perceived criticism. Furthermore, they might appear distracted regularly and have trouble focusing on tasks. As a result, they tend to start performing poorly at school and with homework.
If some or many of these signs sound familiar, you might want to pursue the possibility of anxiety being a cause. To help you understand all the symptoms involved, you should ask your child’s teachers and other adults of what changes they may see also. Such input can provide you a more comprehensive understanding of your child’s overall behavior.
What Should you Do to Help Address Anxiety in Children?
In order to help address anxiety in children, as a parent, you need to think and act proactively. If the anxiety arises from a specific event or environment, the first step might simply be removing your child from that environment. Alternatively, you can talk with your child about what specifically makes them nervous. Then you can work with them to help them deal with it better or find ways to modify the environment or situation to lessen the stress.
In most instances, you want to first try to address anxiety with behavior therapy. There are different types of behavior therapy, but you can work to find the right one with talking through options with a professional counselor. Typically, behavior therapy works to address anxiety by changing how your child perceives and reacts to a trigger. These methods typically use exposure to triggers and education to help your child learn to cope better.
In addition to altering the environment or using behavior therapy, you can also consider medication. Prescription medication for children, though, really should serve as a last resort. Additionally, you should only consider this option in conjunction with talking through things with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician can help explain your options and potential side effects. They can also help to make sure the medication fits in with your overall health goals.
Whatever course you pursue, you need to be sure to include others in your approach to addressing anxiety in children. By including your pediatrician and perhaps a counselor, you can ensure you follow the best course of action for addressing the underlying causes.
Putting in Place Effective Approaches for Managing Anxiety in Children
Anxiety in children can cause significant issues and concerns for any household. No parent wants their child to have to deal with stress on a consistent basis. Additionally, to think that such anxiety can cause further health and developmental issues makes many parents understandably upset.
The good news is that most of the time if you pay close attention, you can spot the signs of anxiety before significant harm arises. Then, if you feel that your child might have ongoing anxiety, you can seek out professional input.
First, you should consult with your child’s pediatrician. Talk through the behavioral and health issues you see in your child with your pediatrician. Oftentimes, your pediatrician can assess your child’s overall well being and provide recommendations on the next steps forward. Additionally, your pediatrician might recommend seeking counseling or even taking some medication.
Along with your pediatrician, you need to make all significant parties in your child’s life aware of the concern. You should include family, friends, and teachers in the discussion. All these parties can help you follow through with helping to see and address anxiety when it appears in your child. Effective overall management might take some additional time and effort. Nonetheless, it can many times prove effective and provide the exact solution you need for resolving anxiety in children.