Just like adults, children experience anxiety, and some are more prone to it than others.
Stressful circumstances – like a big test or conflict at home – may trigger anxiety, or it may be part of a child’s personality to worry. Whatever the cause, it’s important that parents understand anxiety and the strategies that help.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as, “An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Everyone feels anxiety from time to time, and this emotion is often helpful. It helps us avoid danger, for example, and it drives us to get things done.
Too much anxiety, however, has adverse effects. It can cause physical symptoms like shortness of breath and stomachaches, and it can affect our behavior and relationships. Some people experience anxiety so intensely that it’s considered a disorder.
Common symptoms of anxiety in children are:
Why Do Children Experience Anxiety?
Often, children have anxiety because of an upsetting experience. This may be something they experienced directly, but could also be something they saw or heard secondhand. It’s beneficial to talk openly with children about upsetting experiences, so they can voice their feelings and sort out their perceptions.
Children also may feel anxious about family, friends and schoolwork. (We all worry about difficult projects or negative interactions – the same is true for kids.)
By speaking openly about fears and concerns and watching for signs of disordered anxiety, you can help your child develop a healthy approach to worry.
How Can I Help?
Everyone worries, so it’s important your child feels safe voicing his concerns. Try not to scold your child for worrying or diminish her worries with statements like, “calm down” or “there’s nothing to worry about.” Sometimes, simply talking about anxieties makes them feel more manageable.
When your child inevitably worries, here are some responses that help build a healthy outlook:
In all of this, your priority should be to help your child find ways to manage and tolerate anxiety. Worry never goes away, but if we continue to engage with the things that frighten us, it decreases with time.
If your child's anxiety develops physical symptoms or impedes her ability to do normal things, visit your family doctor. Children do not "grow out" of disordered anxiety, so it's important they receive appropriate treatment.
At iLearn Academy, we create personalized learning plans based on each student’s individual needs. If your child needs help managing anxiety about school or homework, our expert instructors can help him catch up, find strategies and build confidence. For more information, check out our curriculum.