Yes, anxiety can affect any person – both the old and the young. As parents, we always want to help our children grow as good, well-balanced individuals and sometimes, that can be a challenge when they get very anxious.
The trouble is that sometimes, children will not tell you that they’re feeling worried about something. This is why we should always be observant about the signs so we can know when they actually need help.
According to Reader’s Digest, there are 15 signs that a child may be having anxiety. Give this a read and see if you can spot some of these indications:
#1. Your child uses a mobile device more often.
Sure, it’s a fact that most kids love playing video games but according to experts, those with anxiety tend to spend longer time on the screen.
As Dan Mortenson, lead therapist of the Chicago Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Center, said:
“Excessive use of screen-based activities can often be a sign that a child is struggling and trying to escape from difficult emotions.”
Once you notice this sign, you might want to spend time together as he or she plays. Interact by playing together or asking questions while you watch. Doing so might help you discover your child’s feelings better.
#2. Your child tries to please everyone.
Anxious children afraid of disappointing people, especially those they love. This is the reason why cognitive behavioral therapist Julia Colangelo believes children should develop assertiveness and self-esteem in their early years. That way, they know how to deal with rejection.
“I encourage parents to take some coaching classes to learn how to develop these skills [in their child] if they notice that their child is always ‘being pushed around’ or not asking for what they want or need.”
#3. Your child does certain rituals in excess – such as hand washing.
Children’s health, fitness, and wellness advocate and author Len Saunders specified that anxious children often do not how how to deal with it or are too embarrassed about the idea of discussing it with their parents and so anxiety “can come in many forms.”
As such, anxiety can manifest in certain behaviors such as washing hands too often, nail-biting, scalp-scratching, and others.
#4. Your child suddenly changes his or her nighttime routine.
Does your child walk often in the middle of the night, struggles with falling asleep, or suddenly wants to sleep beside you every night? Those could be signs as well according to Rebecca R. Berry, Ph.D, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.
As a solution, Dr. Berry counsels parents to strive to stick to healthy routine such as reading books together, helping a young child take a bath, or listening to calming music.
#5. Your child now prefers to be alone, instead of being with his or her bestfriend.
Another indication of anxiety is when your son or daughter suddenly pulls away from a close friend and prefers to be alone instead. Aside from anxiety, this may even be a sign of depression so parents really have to be aware.
#6. Your child doesn’t want to eat his or her favorite foods.
When your child becomes a picky eater all of a sudden, even to the point of refusing his or her favorites, that may be an indication, too. Changes in eating patterns, according to a 2015 research by Pediatrics, can be linked to anxiety. Consulting with a pediatrician is advisable during these instances.
#7. Your child keeps holding to your hip.
If your child has often been independent and then surprisingly shifts to becoming a bit too clingy, it could be a sign of anxiety. Colangelo encouraged parents to “reflect on any recent changes [in a child’s life],” like hearing a scary news headline or parents’ divorce, “and then [respond] consistently with reassurance.”
#8. Your child asks too many questions.
While it’s normal for children to ask a lot of questions, Dr. Mortenson warns about those instances when “the questions start to happen multiple times a day and shift to seeking reassurance from others.” Anxiety may be a factor for the excessive asking.
#9. Your child is often in pain.
For some children, anxiety or stress may manifest through physical discomforts such as headaches and stomach pains. Most often than not, these aches and pains are unrelated to any medical condition.
#10. Your child dreads homework.
“Chronically delaying tasks goes hand-in-hand with feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety,” said Renee Jain, MAPP, creator of GoZen!, in an interview with PsychCentral.com.
Simply said, it is possible that your child procrastinates doing his homework not because he’s lazy but maybe because he thinks he can’t do it right.
#11. Your child experiences bowel movement difficulties.
If your child experiences “regression in toileting behaviors”, Dr. Berry said it may be a physical sign that his or her anxiety has gotten out of control.
When this happens, parents should refrain from criticizing a child but lend a listening ear instead.
Dr. Berry shared:
“Actively listen to their concerns, show understanding, and validate their experience of the situation and feelings.”
#12. Your child is becoming a perfectionist.
There is a big difference between dedication and perfectionism. If your child exhibits signs of the latter, it may be anxiety. Check if he or she is getting stressed with certain activities to the point that he or she wants to do it perfectly.
#13. Your child is skipping after-school activities.
Is your child starting to skip after-school activities that he or she used to enjoy? You can sit down with him or her and talk about it if there are any concerns. Besides, such activities can be a big help in developing their social skills, academic performance, and self-confidence.
#14. Your child is becoming short-tempered.
Sudden mood swings, according to experts, could be another signal. “Think of a quiet and easy-going child who suddenly becomes [a perfectionist], irritable, and/or aggressive,” Dr. Berry said. Instead of being impatient with your son or daughter, take time to listen and understand the root of the problem. That way, you will have clearer ideas of how to be of help.
#15. Your child is always tired.
Extreme fatigue is another sign to watch out for. If he or she often looks too exhusted after school despite having adequate rest the night before, that may mean he or she is experiencing stress in other aspects of his or her life.
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