It’s normal for kids to feel anxious at times. After all, they’re constantly learning and exploring new things, which can be scary. But when anxiety starts impacting a child’s day-to-day life, it’s important to take action.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns in the United States, affecting about 1 in 5 adults. Anxiety can be even more prevalent for kids and teens, with up to 1 in 3 experiencing some symptoms of anxiety during their lifetime. If you have a child who seems to be struggling with anxiety, it can be tough to know how to help them. Here are a few ways to support your child in managing their anxiety.
Understand what anxiety is and how it manifests in children
Anxiety is a feeling of fear or worry that is usually accompanied by physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or shortness of breath. It’s normal for all people to experience some level of anxiety at points in their lives, but for some, this feeling can become constant and overwhelming.
Anxiety can manifest in different ways in children, such as by causing them to feel constantly worried or fearful, irritable and moody, causing them problems with focus and concentration, or acting out aggressively.
Some common symptoms of anxiety in children include:
- Having trouble sleeping
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, or nausea
- Withdrawing from normal activities
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to understand that they are not alone. There are many ways to help them cope with their anxiety.
Validate your child’s experiences
Listening to your child and letting them know you understand what they’re going through is an essential step in helping them manage their anxiety. Allowing your child to express their feelings and fears will help them feel heard and understood, which can be very reassuring.
You might say something like, “It sounds like you’re feeling anxious right now. I’m here for you and want to help you feel better.” This will show your child that you care about them and are willing to support them when they feel anxious.
Help them understand their anxiety and give them tools to cope
One of the most important things you can do to help your child cope with anxiety is to help them understand what it is and why they feel it.
You can say something like, “Anxiety is a feeling of fear or worry that some people feel. This feeling can be caused by different things, like a bad event, stress at school, or family problems. Anxiety is very normal, and everyone experiences it sometimes. It can help us stay alert and ready for anything. But when our anxiety gets too strong or happens too often, it can be really tough to deal with. I want you to know that if you are ever feeling this way, I am always here to talk, and we can work together to make sure you feel better.”
Once they better understand their anxiety, you can give them tools to deal with it.
Some tools include:
- Stress management techniques—such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
- Exercise—which can help release endorphins and improve mood. This can be as simple as running around the yard or playing at the park.
- Positive self-talk—which can help boost confidence and self-esteem.
- Identifying healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety—such as talking to a friend or family member, listening to music, writing in a journal, or taking a relaxing bath.
Be a supportive presence
Simply letting your child know that you love and support them can make a world of difference. When you offer your support, listen to your child, and don’t judge them, you send the message that you love and accept them just as they are.
Let them know that we all feel anxious sometimes and share times you have felt anxious in the past and how you overcame it. This can give them the strength and courage they need to face their anxiety head-on.
Seek professional help if the anxiety is severe or lasts for an extended period
If your child’s anxiety is interfering with their ability to function in daily life, it might be time to seek professional help. They can work with you to understand the root cause of the problem and find ways to address it. With their guidance, you can have peace of mind knowing that your child is on the path to recovery.
If you are worried about your child’s anxiety, call (904) 448-4700 and press 1.