It is normal for all children to experience anxiety to some extent once they get involved in a situation which is unfamiliar to them, such as meeting with a stranger or trying to learn new games.
You can observe it in the form of shyness in your child when you enter a new place with him/her at first. It is generally a transitory mood and when they get familiar with the environment and the people around them, they would feel less anxious.
However, it becomes a problem if it takes too long for your child to get used to these unfamiliar contexts, or overcome his/her anxiety over various things, places or people. In this case, he/she may need some extra help.
How Do They Experience Anxiety?
Anxiety may stem from various reasons which eventually lead to different types of anxiety. For example they might suffer from anxiety as a result of overprotection of parents or negative experiences which result in the fear from certain people and certain places based on the type of their anxiety. Regardless of the reasons and the types of it, children who suffer from anxiety show similar symptoms.
The most common symptom of anxiety in children is that they tend to avoid situations related to their anxiety, or from trying new things. They might avoid from school as they are more likely to be clingy to their parents. They tend to fear from the world outside their family and worry about losing their parents.
Furthermore, they seek reassurance from others while trying to be totally perfect. The quest for confirmation from the others all the time brings about struggle for perfection which results in several health problems in anxious children. Physically, they might suffer from diarrhea, sleeplesness, stomachache and headache. Also, they experience mental problems which can be seen at school environment such as difficulty in concentration.
As they do not believe in themselves, they worry a lot about doing things right and seek your help. With the same reason, they prefer to watch new activities rather than give it a try.
Most of the problems which accompany anxiety have similar roots and thus similar solutions. We will look deeply into these solutions to help your child together. But beforehand, it would be helpful to learn more about what kind of anxiety your child struggles with.
What Type of Anxiety Does Your Child Struggle With?
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there are 7 types of anxiety that children face with. Depending on the past experiences of the child, he/she might have one of theses different types of anxiety. Actually, studies show that around 60% of children experience more than one type.
Lets consider what are these types are and why would children have to struggle with more than one.
1.Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is basically the fear of everything. Sometimes children worry about their grades, family problems, peer relations or performance at various activities.
If these worries come altogether and take important place in the child’s life, it is an indicator of GAD. Every 1 in 5 children with anxiety deals with this type.
GAD is closely associated with lower
2.Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is the second common anxiety type among children, especially for those who live in war territory. It arises after a traumatic event like war, sexual abuse or loss of a parent.
PTSD causes children to have constant nightmares or imaginations related to the experience. They have difficulty in sleeping with intense fear and anxiety. In the long term, it is likely to bring about depression, irritability and other anxiety problems.
Most of the time PTSD is beyond the boundaries of how can parents handle. You may not even know the reason behind. If your child
3.Seperation Anxiety Disorder
Separation from the caregiver is difficult for the majority of children around 18 to 30 months. Any of us can observe that a child shows anxiety when its parent leaves the room or goes out of sight. Yet, this manifestation of leaving decreases as they get older.
It is also common for children to be clingy on the first day of school, or in the presence of strangers. But, again, these are specific situations.
If you have to face with this clingy behavior almost everyday, if your child does not want to go to school or does not want you to go to work, he/she may need a little help.
Children with separation anxiety disorder feel like some bad things would happen to them or to their parents when they are apart. They refuse to go to school, refuse to stay over in the absence of their parents, or do not let their parents
A negative past experience may contribute this anxiety. Working mothers are also more likely to face with this problem. The solution is of course not to quick the job. You can comfort her/him with the tips provided below.
4.Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety, also called social phobia, is the fear for social situations. According to studies, around 1-7 % of children have to deal with social phobia across the world.
Children in this group feel uncomfortable with the situations in which they are in front of other people. For example, being called in a class would increase these children’s anxiety level or making presentations in front of a class would be really difficult for them.
They may have sweaty hands or suffer from heart palpitations as if their body gets to the alarm position. These physical symptoms may cause heart-related problems in the long run.
Besides, social anxiety in childhood predicts social anxiety in adulthood, says long-term studies. Thus, it is an important problem to take precautions.
You may notice that your child act more shyly in the presence of relatively strangers. It is not an unusual for children to behave like that. But what if your child does not talk at all in the presence of certain others?
Selective mutism is the refusal of some children to talk when it is expected. These children may be very talkative at home or other places. That is why, mostly, parents surprised to hear from the teachers that he/she does not talk at all.
Selective mutism occurs around school age when children do not feel comfortable with the class environment. According to the studies, enhancing the class environment or peer relations will help to overcome the issue, .
Phobia is defined as an extreme fear for certain objects, animals or some other things. The source of the fear might be various such as dogs, snakes, scorpions as well as horses, chickens or clowns.
Development of phobia occurs through generalization of a simple fear. When we have a strong negative experience with a dog, for example, it brings the thought that all the dogs are very scary. At that moment onward, even thinking about dogs make us feel really uncomfortable.
Sometimes, it develops as association of a fear with an object through a common feature. For example, a child may develop phobia for fury things as a result of a negative encounter with a rabbit.
There are some methods to overcome a phobia. But, they all need to be maintained with the help of a professional. What you can do is to calm down, take the fear seriously and not to make fun of it.
7.Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder is the obsessive thoughts regarding several possible things and accompanied compulsions to relief from these thoughts. For example, a child or an adult may think that he can get virus from everywhere. If he thinks that constantly, this will be the obsessive thought. When this thought makes him feel obligated to wash his hands 27 times a day, this will be compulsion.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is more common among boys than girls. You can observe the effects at around 2-3 years of age. Organizing toys in a perfect order or presenting ritual-like behaviours (always knocking the door three times, for example) may hint you about the disorder.
However, it is not necessary for this anxiety to set the thames on fire. Although it may limit the life of your child, it does not come with the worst consequences and could be healed.
We have passed through the most common anxieties among children. I guess, you are now more clear about what type of anxiety your child may have, and what is it like to have that anxiety. Now, it’s time to find out what we can do to help.
5 Tips to Help Your Child with Anxiety
Several studies for years have shown that we can overcome anxiety. Then why not our children would? The tips provided below are based on the empirical research conducted with anxious children. Thus, you can trust science if not me.
1.Leave Some Time to Talk About Worries
You should know that talking therapy is as important as drug support in psychological issues. Talking to your kid about his worries would help him/her far more than you think.
Scientists have shown the positive effects of talking specifically on anxiety. Despite, you should be aware of the fact that every talk doesn’t provide fruitful effects.
Try to ask your kid what kind of worries he/she has without making any judgment and try to maintain these little but high-quality talks nearly every day. In addition to the positive effects of being listened, he/she would find the opportunity to overview his worries in this way.
2.Encourage Positive Thinking
Think positive, live positive! Anxious children tend to see the glass half empty. Show your kid that glass is half full. You don’t have to wear pink glasses for him. Just clarify that the world is not on fire.
Besides, try to highlight for him that he is capable of making the glass total full.
3.Give It a Try
Anxious children, mostly, do not feel like they can be good at things, especially the ones that they try for the first time. Because of that, they feel intimidated by new activities.
You can break this fear by trying those new things together with your child. When he/she sees that you also act shyly at first, she would realize that worry is a normal feeling for anyone.
However, the critical point of this activity is the end of it where you should explain to him/her that being successful is not important at all. You should make them realize that they are valuable in themselves regardless of the gain or loss. Also, they should understand that the judgment of other people do not make them less valuable. If you can make this activity – trying to make a cake or building a model car, for example- just for fun, both you and your kid will have a blast at the end.
You may complain as ‘ I say everything to make my child less anxious, but it does not work’. At this point you should ask yourself what might be the reason for it. The answer could possibly your body language which you use during the activity as it is an important compenent of communication.
You should keep in mind that children learn very quickly by observation. If you act very anxious while telling your child not to be, he would listen the language of your body.
Anxiety is like a part of our lives and sometimes it is even too hard to act calm for adults. However, you may try to keep it in minimum in the presence of your child. At the times he/she witnesses your anxiety, try to explain the reasons behind your worries in his level. In this way, he/she would learn that sometimes it is okay to worry.
5.Support Bodily Needs of Your Child
Having nutritious diet and maintaining physical exercise are known as protective factors against psychological problems.
Although every family do not have the same economic welfare and you cannot provide the best meat or expensive fruits for your child, you can find cheaper alternatives to nourish them. For example legumes are one of the best sources of protein. You can try leaving some more place to either some meat or a type of legume which will increase the nutritious value of your plate.
Also, don’t forget to give your child a cucumber or a carrot as a snack and encourage him/her to spend time in parks as an exercise instead of sitting in front of screens.
When to Seek Professional Help?
Even though the tips given above are verified bits of help, sometimes you may need a little more than that. If your child’s anxiety severely interferes with school adjustment, or make him experience severe somatic complaints, it is time to consult a professional.
Especially if you are faced with a traumatic event, you need to see a professional without delay.