As one of the most common mental health concerns found in children, anxiety can cause your child to behave in ways that can drastically seem out of character for them. Unfortunately, when parents notice these changes in their children they can leave parents confused about what to do, ultimately leading to frustration and feeling overwhelmed. Let’s take a closer look at some of the signs that your child may be experiencing when facing anxiety issues, so you can be better prepared to help.
Causes of anxiety in children
Anxiety typically stems from genetic or environmental factors.
- Children with a family history of anxiety are more likely to develop anxiety issues than children without a family history of anxiety, sometimes as high as three times more likely.
- The environment kids find themselves in can also lead to them developing anxiety as they grow up. For example, a traumatic event, an unhappy home life, or stressful experiences at school can all lead to your child experiencing anxiety more often and into adulthood.
Signs your child may be struggling with anxiety
Children can experience different anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, and more. Parents should keep an eye out for common signs of anxiety in their children.
- Persistent sadness or hopelessness – more than two weeks.
- Quick outbursts and irritability.
- Changes in eating habits.
- Steady weight loss and lack of interest in physical activity.
- Trouble sleeping and concentrating.
- Avoiding school.
- Drops in academic performance.
These are just some of the most common signs that your child may be experiencing anxiety issues. It is important that parents take notice of these new behaviours and actions and ensure they seek the help of children and youth mental health professionals.
What can parents do to help?
There are many strategies parents can use to help their children cope with their anxiety when it begins to affect their daily life. Simple actions like being more encouraging, setting positive, realistic expectations, and avoiding leading questions can be a great start. Still, you can go a step further and practice some more in-depth strategies for identifying problems and helping your child manage their anxiety:
- Learn your child’s anxiety cues. This can include physical changes (sweating, heavily breathing, feeling hot, etc.) as well as overreactions or tired and uninterested responses.
- Understanding and teaching breathing techniques. By practicing deep breathing techniques and doing them with your child, you are helping them to relax when facing an anxiety attack. Deep breathing slows the brain down and forces it to focus on the act of inhaling and exhaling.
- Gratitude journals and worry boxes. Having your child keep a gratitude journal helps them focus on the positive aspects of their lives and reminds them of times when they overcame their anxiety. Worry boxes offer a way for children to compartmentalize their negative feelings. Using a simple cardboard box and some paper, have your child write out their worries and fears and place them in the box, keeping them out of their thoughts and away.
Are you looking for more support?
We understand that parents with children who suffer from anxiety can feel overwhelmed and unsure of what they can do to help. The strategies and signs outlined above can help parents like yourself get a better understanding of childhood anxiety. But if you feel your child needs more support, please contact us now. York Hills provides a range of mental health services for children up to age 18 – with programs that help kids and teens cope with anxiety issues and live happier, more fulfilling lives.