No parent wants to see their child sad or frightened, but more and more children in the Western world are now coping with stress and anxiety. For the most part, parents of children who suffer from these feelings are at a loss while at the same time they look for every possible way to help their children cope with this situation, sometimes to no avail. If your children are suffering from anxiety, or you know parents of such children, you should read the following article, which highlights some of the common causes of anxiety, signs the child is suffering and how to cope with it so that you can be the best parent you can be and help them cope.
Common Causes of Anxiety in Children:
- Anxiety and depression affect many children1
- 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.
- 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.
- Anxiety and depression have increased over time2
- “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6-17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.
- “Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety” among children aged 6-17 years increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012.
- “Ever having been diagnosed with depression” among children aged 6-17 years did not change between 2007 (4.7%) and 2011–2012 (4.9%).
Common Causes of Anxiety in Children:
1. A significant change in the family – One of the main causes of anxiety and depression among children is a significant change in the family – divorce, death, moving, and even birth can undermine your child’s peace of mind. Think about these significant changes and understand that they can shake your child’s stability and make them feel insecure, leading to confusion and eventually to anxiety and depression.
2. Parental instability – Another reason many children experience anxiety and depression is parental instability, which means that the parent’s life is unstable and as a result, the children’s security is undermined. Money, feelings of depression, family turmoil or fighting between parents can cause your children to experience a tremendous sense of helplessness because they want to help, but they don’t have the means to do so, thereby making the road to anxiety and depression very short.
3. Packed schedules – Today most children have packed schedules; From school through to private lessons to spending time with friends, these are just some of the activities that many children take part in. These children tend to run between activities which can cause great stress. Even if they seem happy and enjoy the activity load, in most cases they need occasional quiet and rest.
4. Educational pressure – the school curriculum can be a burden on many children, along with the number of assignments and tests given throughout the year. Therefore, this is one of the causes of stress among many children who are anxious about succeeding in school. Such pressure is most common among teenagers and children who are afraid to make mistakes and fail or be imperfect.
5. Popularity – In today’s reality, the need to show off and be seen exists in everyone, even in many children. For the most part, being shunned or even simply not popular can be a major factor of depression in children. As they grow, most of them want to integrate and feel a sense of belonging to a particular group, and this pressure can sometimes be agonizing.
6. Bullying – This common problem affects many children very strongly, especially in the mental-emotional aspect, and sometimes can also cause physical damage. Children who struggle with bullying often feel embarrassed that they are targets, and as a result may hide the abuse from their parents and teachers for fear of drawing attention to themselves and exposing their weaknesses.
7. News – Everywhere in the world there are media outlets that report on various events that happen around the world, and this information, which can sometimes be difficult, is exposed to many children. News headlines and images depicting natural disasters, terrorist attacks, violence, and more can cause anxiety among children. When children see and hear bad news, they may worry that something bad can happen to them or someone they love.
8. A scary film or book – today’s movies, television, and literature have become more blunt and speculative, therefore, fiction stories can cause distress or anxiety among some children. Children are often affected by frightening, violent, or disturbing scenes that are shown in a movie or written in a book. Some may even be more sensitive. Try to understand who your child is, how sensitive he/she is, and what scares them, and limit the content they are exposed to based on this knowledge.
Causes, signs, and ways of dealing with anxiety in children:
They often complain of headaches or stomachaches, although there is no medical reason behind the pain.
Refuse to eat snacks or meals at school.
Don’t use restrooms other than those at home.
They are restless, nervous, hyperactive or distracted.
They begin to tremble or sweat in threatening situations.
They have constant difficulty falling asleep.
Their muscles are tense all the time.
They often cry.
They are overly sensitive.
They are angry for no apparent reason.
They are afraid to make small mistakes.
They suffer from excessive fears (natural disasters, bees, etc.).
Worry about what happens in the future.
Suffer from recurring nightmares about the loss of a parent or other loved one.
Their worries and fears interfere with them having child fun.
They suffer from tantrums.
They are preoccupied with obsessive thoughts or suffering compulsive behaviors (finger tapping, hand washing, etc.).
They always ask, “What if?”
They refrain from participating in class activities, even outside school hours.
They are quiet or preoccupied with something while they are supposed to work with others.
They Refuse to go to school.
They often are alone during recess.
They refuse to talk to people in public places.
They constantly ask permission from parents, teachers, and friends.
They say, “I can’t ” without a real reason.
They find it difficult to part from people who are close to them, even if only for a short time, and they respond to this separation in an exaggerated and unusual way.
Ways of coping with children with anxiety
Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy
Being healthy is important for all children, and can be especially important for children with depression or anxiety. In addition to getting the right treatment, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:
- Having a healthy eating plan centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds
- Participating in physical activity each day based on age
- Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age
- Practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques
1. Teach children to control anxiety
Not one of us is interested in seeing their child anxious and sad, and the best way to help them overcome it is actually to teach them to control these feelings. Talk to your child about their feelings and the panic attacks they suffer from, try to understand how they begin, their triggers and the symptoms. When you learn to identify them, they can be better controlled. Of course, the beginning will be difficult and the self-control will improve over time and practice.
2. Don’t avoid certain things just because they can trigger your child’s anxiety
Preventing situations that cause anxiety in children can be an effective short-term solution, however, this won’t help your child develop the coping skills needed to deal with anxiety in the long term. If you constantly come to your child’s rescue when they are faced with something that causes them anxiety, they’ll learn that they have someone that will deal with their anxiety for them. This is why you need to allow your child to experience these situations and teach them how to deal with and soothe panic attacks.
3. Present the situation in a positive but realistic light
You can’t sugar coat your child’s fear and make them believe they’ll never happen. Whether it’s failing a test, a visit to the dentist, or bullying, these are things your child really might have to face, and they can be scary, you, however, need to show them that you are confident in the ability to deal with these situations. The intention here is to reassure the children that they will understand that any experience they undergo, good or bad, is temporary and can be controlled. Over time, their level of anxiety will decline and they will rely on the confidence you place on them.
4. Respect their feelings but don’t empower them
It’s important to understand that respecting their feelings doesn’t mean you are approving or agreeing with them. If your child is afraid, for example, to go to the doctor because they are scared of shots, don’t undermine this fear, but at the same time don’t increase it. Just listen to your child, be empathic and help them understand why they are afraid, and then encourage them and make them feel that they can conquer their fears. Remember, the message you want to convey is “I know you’re scared, it’s fine, I’m here and I’m going to help you through this.”
5. Don’t ask leading questions
You should encourage your children to talk about their feelings and anxieties, but try not to use leading questions : “Are you afraid of the test next week?” Or “Are you afraid of visiting the doctor?” To avoid asking them questions that will increase their anxiety just ask them open questions such as: “How do you feel about the test you have next week?”
6. Encourage them to accept their anxieties
You must show your children that you appreciate the effort their putting into coping with the depression and anxiety they experience, which will encourage them to continue to do so until the situation changes. Remember that your children cope with anxiety attacks every day, and with your support, their feelings will improve and eventually they’ll be able to overcome their fears.
7. Be a role model in dealing with anxiety
The best way to help your children deal with anxiety is by showing them how you deal with it. Children, especially at a young age, absorb much of the behaviors of their environment and especially their parents. If they constantly hear their parents complain and see them unable to cope with their stress and fears they will adopt these same inabilities. We aren’t saying you need to pretend to not have fears or feels stress, but we are saying that you should be exhibiting the correct way to deal with it
Every parent wants their child to be happy, so many parents find it difficult to help their children and understand them when they are suffering from anxiety. We believe that thanks to the knowledge you’ve acquired here, you’ll be able to identify signs of anxiety in your children and know how to help them cope with it. In addition, you may want to consider providing your child with professional care, such as therapy.
CDC: Adolescent and School Mental Health
Source: CDC, Internet & Others
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com
The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Always make sure to seek a doctor or a professional’s advice before proceeding with the home treatment plan.