Identifying Anxiety in Children
It is normal for children to feel anxious and worried from time to time as they are constantly exposed to new surroundings and situations. While most children learn to adapt and cope with such circumstances, some children are highly affected that gets reflected in their thoughts and behaviour every day. Often such behaviour interferes with school and social life.
Some common symptoms of anxiety in children are difficulty in concentration, eating disorder, irritability and inadequate sleep or walking in the night with bad dreams. Other related symptoms include frequent complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell to being clingy and cry-baby and having negative thoughts.
However, as a parent, the most difficult part is to figure out whether your child is suffering from anxiety or any other physical condition. For instance, in school, a child’s aversion towards a certain subject (often math) is manifested in the form of a stomach ache or uneasiness or compulsive distractions. While such behaviour may be interpreted as ‘feeling sick’ or learning disability, in reality he is suffering from anxiety. In fact, it takes a judicious and sensitive eye to distinguish anxiety from the others.
Triggers for anxiety
Developing anxiety is often related to an actual situation or a perceived event whose outcome is upsetting or terrifying. It can be a mixture of psychological, environmental and biological factors. While psychological factors may include death of a close relative or a friend, becoming seriously injured or ill and school exams or bullying, environmental factors are more to do with troubled childhood, frequent argument between parents or constant abuse and neglect. On the biological front, children born to anxious parents are more likely to be anxious.
As a parent our primary task is not to eliminate anxiety but to help a child learn and manage it. One should not avoid doing things that makes a child anxious, as such actions may make the child feel better and secured in the short run, but fortifies anxiety in the long run. In contrast, teach your child to recognise signs of anxiety in themselves and ask for help. One should give him confidence that he will be okay and that he can manage with some simple relaxation techniques. It is important that as a parent, one should not be anxious or overprotective. Also, it is advisable to try and stick to a regular daily routine where possible as children of all ages find routines reassuring.
However, if you still feel that anxiety is getting into your child’s routine lifestyle or self-help is not giving the desired result, it is always advisable to seek professional help. Doctors and trained professionals can identify the reasons for anxiety and determine whether a child needs counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or medicine. In most cases, counselling and therapy does the trick with support from the parents. After all, mental health is as important as physical health.