All children experience anxiety but how much of that anxiety is normal?
It can be perplexing when your child has anxiety, especially because determining the source of that anxiety can leave you stressed and baffled. Moreover, anxiety manifests in the body in many different ways. While some children can become hypersensitive and jittery, others can avoid anxiety-provoking situations, experience a change in daily habits such as sleeping, and become less focused. Yet others can develop unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches.
Anxiety in childhood is normal for many children and is often linked to both spoken and unspoken fears. Your child may be anxious because he is afraid of losing you, he may be anxious because he thinks he is letting you down, he may be anxious because of a trigger in his environment, or he may simply be a natural born worrier.
Research has so far proved inconclusive about where anxiety comes from. Evidence suggests that children raised in punitive environments are more likely to suffer from anxiety. Yet children whose parents are warm, loving and responsive also suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can be genetic but it rarely is. Even within the same family, one child can be more anxious than the others.
Although evidence suggests that children raised by anxious parents are more likely to suffer from anxiety-related disorders in adulthood, the problem stems more from parental behavior than from genetics. In other words, if appropriate steps are taken, parents can avoid passing on their anxiety to their children.
What we know, though, is that if left unaddressed, childhood anxiety can lead to social, academic and psychological problems. What’s more, failing to tackle your child’s anxiety puts him or her at a higher risk of suffering from anxiety-prone disorders later in life. However, it is not always easy to know what an anxious child needs. Will pushing her make her less or more anxious? What can you do to help your daughter manage anxiety better? Are there coping tools you can try? Should you cope on your own or should you seek specialist help? In other words, where do you start when dealing with an anxious child? Here are a few tips that will hopefully help answer some of these questions.
1) Put a name on it
Like with all big emotions, children know they feel “something” when they are anxious but they neither know what that something means, nor do they know that other people feel the same sometimes. Letting your kids know that everyone experiences anxiety lets him know that he is not alone. Using age-appropriate strategies to teach your child about different emotions is the first step in helping him understand difficult emotions such as anxiety.
2) Help your child identify her triggers
Except in cases of chronic anxiety, childhood anxiety is often triggered by specific events. Helping your child identify what triggers her anxiety is an important step in helping her overcome that anxiety. Knowing the triggers makes it possible to identify the appropriate strategy to deal with anxiety-provoking situations.
3) Talk about how the body feels
Anxiety feels uncomfortable. It is manifested in the body in different ways such as sweaty palms and faster heart beats but different children experience different symptoms. Helping your child be more aware of these symptoms makes it easier to adopt appropriate coping strategies.
4) Try natural approaches to calm anxiety
An increasing amount of evidence suggests that some essential oils are a practical, easy-to-use and natural solution which can help calm kids struggling with anger and anxiety. There are many different ways to use these oils with kids. However, not all essential oils are suitable for use with young children and there are important precautions to take if you decide to use aromatherapy to help calm your child’s anxiety.
5) You do not have to go it alone
Anxiety is one of the issues most children struggle and this explains why there are multiple age-appropriate resources that are easy to apply at home to help your child. While anxiety in children is normal, it could signal a problem when it begins interfering with his social and academic life. You should seek professional help when your child starts exhibiting multiple anxiety related symptoms such as physical symptoms, problems making and keeping friends, excessive worrying, and excessive self-criticism. In other words, your child needs help if his anxiety is excessive and if his reactions are out of proportion to actual threats.