How to Identify Stress and Anxiety in Your Kids
Anxiety is an all too common problem, faced both by adults and children. Nearly 20% of children show symptoms of some or the other form of anxiety: minor phobias, like fear of clowns or dogs, to a more generalized anxiety like constantly worrying that something will go wrong.
The source of the anxiety can be both external and internal. Feeling of wanting to do well in school, fit in with peers, parents fighting or going through a divorce, shifting cities and schools, an overly packed schedule, a scary movie or a book are all some of the things which can trigger anxiety and stress in a child.
According to experts, parents as a whole are more stressed right now than ever before, maybe due to the economic and political climate of the world – and that certainly has a trickle-down effect on the child as well.
Although the concern is well-meaning, a child may not understand where it’s stemming from and may see the parent’s over-protectiveness as their own weakness and incapability.
In most cases, fear and anxiety in children may disappear with age, a 2 year old who shows signs of separation anxiety and severe discomfort while interacting with other children may not always remain that way. She may even grow up to be an extrovert who loves talking and interacting with new people. But, while this is fortunately true, symptoms of anxiety still cannot be overlooked in the hope that it will disappear. They need to be attended to, just in case it’s a sign of something more severe than growing up pains.
One of the biggest reasons why we miss out on spotting anxiety earlier is because sometimes, anxiety doesn’t look like anxiety at all. The symptoms can be both behavioural and physical and can differ in each kid.
Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety in Kids
Though any significant change in behaviour or temperament is the most telling of all, these are some of the most common symptoms displayed by children undergoing stress and anxiety:
- Winding up in your bed most nights – when previously used to sleeping alone. This or any other form of clinginess or dependent behaviour especially one’s which were missing earlier can be a sign of the turmoil being experienced by the child.
- Development of a new habit which shows nervousness, like nail biting or fidgeting
- Difficulty in getting sleep, or having a restless sleep
- Difficulty in concentration
- Frequent complaints of headaches or stomach aches
- Frequent and adamant refusals to go to school
- Complaints from school of causing trouble
- Being prone to angry outbursts or tantrums
What Can You Do?
It could be that the child is fine and is just going through some teething problems, but it’s best to get an expert’s opinion about the same without coming to any conclusions. When you feel like their stress level is interfering with them continuing on their daily life as normal, then you know that it’s a good time to get some help.
Psychologists help anxious children replace their negative thoughts with targeted coping strategies. In some cases, medication may also be required.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)
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