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It's normal for children and teens to feel worried or anxious occasionally. But when they don't overcome the fears and concerns typical of their ages, or when fears and concerns are so many that they interfere with school or social activities, an anxiety disorder may be diagnosed. Here are warning signs of anxiety to look out for and actions to take if you see them.
Anxious little ones
Anxious children usually avoid the object of their distress. For example, they may cry or throw a tantrum before every appointment with the dentist or doctor and refuse to participate in activities that other children enjoy like playdates and birthday parties.
Anxiety can come in the form of fear or worry, but it can also make children irritable and angry. In fact, older kids may tend to cover up various anxieties in fear of being judged by classmates. Symptoms of anxiety can also include lack of sleep or sleep-disrupting nightmares in addition to physical symptoms such as vomiting, trembling, sweating, fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, dizziness and paranoia.
Do your children wind up in your bed every night, can't stop worrying about getting sick, or need to be coaxed outside because they’re afraid of being stung or attacked? These are also red flags of a child who may be suffering from anxiety.
Anxiety in teens
Teenagers are especially concerned about their social relationships and fears related to social acceptance may arise. More specifically, concerns such as good physical appearances, lack of academic achievement and interactions with the opposite sex are some of the most common. Fears of rejection by peers, failure and lack of public speaking are some that may arise during these adolescent years.
Teens who suffer from anxiety typically experience depleting academic performance, demotivation, boredom, and lack of enjoyment with things or activities that they once enjoyed. Other effects that are mildly common are changes in appetite or sleep, irritability and anger.
Helping your kid cope
Your children learn from your example, therefore it’s crucial to control your own fears and stresses. Parents who struggle doing so are likely to spread same symptoms to their children.
Don't underestimate your children's feelings. Belittling their fears or ridiculing them will only make them suffer for feeling this way, subsequently causing more anxiety.
You can try using distraction techniques, such as singing, playing or listening to calm music to help reduce their fears. In addition, exercise and regular physical activity are very helful in reducing physical and psychological reactions to stress.
While it’s beneficial to keep your child busy and active, there must be a limit. Too many tasks, obligations and extracurricular activities may overwhelm your child.
Supporting the anxious teen
One big problem for young people dealing with anxiety issues is that they are often misunderstood by the adults around them. Parents and teachers tend to minimize their problems or fears. Therefore, avoid telling your teen, "you are too young to have problems" and value what they are going through.
It’s necessary that teenagers understand what happens to them so they can learn to handle situations and find the reasons for their anxiety. Therefore, advise them that whenever they experience anxiety, they should identify what is happening to them and what feelings they are feeling. If rationalized like this, they can reduce the intensity or duration of periods of high anxiety levels and find ways to avoid similar situations in the future.
Don’t use complicated medical terms when explaining the details of a young person’s anxiety disorder. Their possible lack of understanding of their conditions can make them feel worse. Your task is to communicate the details in a clear, concise and positive way.
Everyone feels anxious every now and then, but when your child or teenager’s anxieties begins to interfere with their quality of life, experts at Memorial Healthcare System are here to help.