Anxiety is a natural response to stressors in life and may be positive or negative. In fact, research shows that it can help us stay safe by prompting caution when necessary. However, if you or your young one has anxiety that interferes with daily activities or lasts for more than four weeks, it’s time to take action. This disorder is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting nearly one in five adults annually. In children and adolescents, this rate is even higher. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25 percent of teenagers experience the disorder at some point during adolescence. It can develop at any age, but some may first appear when young and still develop emotionally. If you recognize signs of anxiety in your child, consider these 7 tips.
Feelings of shame or embarrassment often accompany anxiety. If your young one is experiencing these symptoms, encourage them to talk openly about their feelings. This can be easier said than done, especially if your kid is young or has language delays. If they struggle to articulate their feelings, you can start the conversation by talking about your experiences. Let them know that everyone becomes anxious sometimes, even adults. Don’t forget to discuss how people respond differently. For example, it can make you feel tense and stressed out, or it can cause you to feel more alert and on edge.
Suppose you’re able to open the conversation with your kid; ask what coping strategies they’ve used in the past. They may already have tried techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness. They may have also developed negative coping strategies. Common unhealthy coping strategies include:
- Self-medication and substance abuse
- Ignoring problems and avoiding social situations
- Eating disorders and restrictions
- External distractions like frequent internet use
- Self-punishment or self-injury
Exercise has numerous benefits, including easing the symptoms of anxiety. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, hormones that can decrease feelings of being anxious consequently helping you feel calmer and less stressed. Exercise can take many forms, including walking, running, biking, swimming, or lifting weights. It doesn’t have to be done all at once or every day, but it must be consistent. If your youngster is on the younger side, exercise can be especially helpful. However, young children shouldn’t exercise without adult supervision. If they’re a picky eater, encourage them to try new foods to get the nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy.
Some parents try to help reduce their child’s anxiety by shaming or criticizing them for having these feelings. While it’s important to calmly address the issue, shaming or criticizing them will only make them feel worse. Rather, try empathizing and acknowledging that their feelings are real and upsetting.
Getting enough sleep can help your child reset their body and mood. It’ll also help them concentrate better, regulate their emotions, and improve their self-image. Many factors can disrupt sleep, including anxiety. Help them work towards adequate sleep by first addressing potential sleep issues. For example, if they find it difficult to fall asleep, they may benefit from relaxation techniques. They should consider limiting screen time before bed if they have trouble staying asleep. Taking deep breaths, walking around the block, listening to music, or writing in a journal might help.
If your young one has been diagnosed with the disorder, consider finding a counselor or therapist who specializes in helping kids with anxiety. The expert can help them develop coping techniques, manage their symptoms, and learn how to manage the related symptoms.
Also, consider looking for a support group tailored to anxious children and teenagers. These groups can be beneficial for young ones who feel too ashamed to talk with a therapist. Some groups meet weekly or monthly, and some offer online forums that allow your kid to connect with others struggling with anxiety from the comfort of their own home. However, don’t force them to join a group if they are uncomfortable.
Anxiety is a complex condition that can be highly challenging for kids and their parents. Fortunately, there are many strategies you can use to help manage and reduce the symptoms. It’s important to remember that your kid is not their anxiety; they are so much more than their symptoms. Follow these tips if your young one struggles with this disorder, and be patient with them. Together, you can find effective ways to manage the symptoms and make them feel cared for, understood, and loved.