According to statistics, approximately 5 to 10% of children around the world experience anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, not a lot of parents get to spot anxiety in their children. It could lead to the development of severe anxiety levels and even other mental health illnesses which children could carry until they grow up. So as early as possible, it would be best for parents to already recognize the anxiety in their children to facilitate proper intervention methods.
Here are five ways that parents can spot anxiety in your child:
- Identify The Physical Signs
The tricky part about anxiety is that its physical symptoms could also mean other things. When anxious, a child may show agitation, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping. This could also include fidgeting, shaking, tensed muscles, and hyperactivity. “Never dismiss or play down your child’s anxiety. When they complain of a stomachache or headache in the morning before school, they’re not faking. The pain they feel is real, and may require clinical treatment.” This is the hopeful message of Perri Klass, M.D., and Eileen Costello, M.D.,
The trap is that sometimes, parents would assume that it is just a child’s typical response to a frightening situation, like a movie. While this could be true in several cases, parents should take note of these physical signs. If it persists, together with other symptoms, they should start seeking professional help.
- Observe Changes In Behavior
Changes in a child’s behavior may present emotional signs of anxiety. For instance, a child who used to be always smiling may start often crying, being constantly grumpy without an apparent reason, or become afraid to make small mistakes. These signs do not need to happen suddenly, though. Sometimes, it manifests in gradual, day-by-day changes.
The important thing here is for parents to not quickly dismiss the tantrums and fears of their young ones as plain childish tricks. Parents need to understand that there could be a deeper meaning to all of the changes in their child’s behavior and that anxiety may be causing them.
- Learn What Happens In School
Even if anxiety becomes apparent in the physical and emotional tendencies of your child, do make an effort to learn what happens to them at school. Parents should ask their children about school every single day. Simple questions like “How did you do at school today?” or “What did you learn from the teacher?” could reveal signs of anxiety. To a certain extent, parents could also do a surprise visit for their children at school or observe them from a distance. It could reveal more accurate answers.
Also, parents should also coordinate frequently and adequately with teachers and school administrators to get a broader perspective on how their child does at school. If they observe similar changes in behavior and physical tendencies on the child, it could validate what parents already identified as anxiety.
- Check Their Interaction With Friends
While some children love the idea of doing things by themselves, social withdrawal is a symptom of anxiety. If your child used to love the company of others but suddenly shows aversion towards friends without any specific reason, it could be a sign of anxiety. Children experiencing anxiety disorders tend to avoid social situations, refuse to speak with friends, and exclude themselves from participating in activities that require interpersonal interactions.
In this social media age, it would also be good to check on your children’s social media accounts. See how they portray themselves to their friends and what kinds of things they share on the internet. It could reveal more signs of anxiety disorders as children find their outlet through their social media posts. “Never dismiss or play down your child’s anxiety. When they complain of a stomachache or headache in the morning before school, they’re not faking. The pain they feel is real, and may require clinical treatment.” This is the hopeful message of Perri Klass, M.D., and Eileen Costello, M.D.,
- Look Beyond Other Mental Health Issues
Another tricky part about anxiety in children is that the signs could confuse parents. They may think it is another mental health disorder. It leads to mistakes to seek treatments for mental health disorders instead of anxiety.
For instance, children may have tendencies to be obsessive-compulsive as a coping mechanism for their anxiety. For some, the restlessness caused by anxiety is similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Still, the fears generated by anxious thoughts can be boxed as just a phobia. It does not address the anxiety from within.
This makes it essential for parents to widen their knowledge about mental health to address it adequately when their children start experiencing the symptoms.
Anxiety levels do vary. Anxiety can manifest itself in a multitude of ways across different children. Even symptoms do have commonalities that parents should be able to spot early on. As parents, they should try their best to keep an open mind and understand their children’s thoughts and situations. Aside from professional help, parental guidance is always a good solution to mental health disorders among children.
“Taking time to cool off will also help you avoid the last and most counterproductive element of ignore-nag-yell-punish,” says John Taylor, PH.D.