Worry. Worry. Worry. This year has been full of things to worry about. Whether personal worries such as managing finances or global worries such as staying safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. Worries have flooded the minds of most adults this year, but how have those worries impacted our children?
Unlike adults, children usually don’t realize how intense their feelings of anxiety have become. It can be difficult for a child to express that something feels wrong. Therefore, Children, particularly those from 0-6 years old, feel their symptoms physically. Significant focus on physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachache, or other types of pain is referred to somatic symptoms. Although children may say they feel physical pain, the result is typically that of major stress or anxiety toward a stimulus.
But wait, don’t all children worry?
Yes, all children worry at times. However, some children worry more than others and may need additional supports to cope. Children with anxiety disorders feel worry that begin to interfere with their daily functioning at school, home, and/or play. For example, a child may experience so many fears and negative thoughts that they begin to avoid specific activities, as well as have a difficult time relaxing or concentrating on tasks. Despite receiving comfort from parents, children with anxiety may perseverate on topics and find it difficult to move forward.
Moreover, children who have anxiety disorder may possibly worry about fears that are not typical for their age. For example, young children are often afraid of the dark or imaginary figures; however, if these fears do not disappear as the child gets older, an anxiety disorder maybe present.
Emotional & Physical Symptoms can include:
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Quick Breathing
- Clingy to parent
- Trouble sleeping
- Constant thoughts and fears about safety
- Refusal to go to school
- A need for everything to be “perfect”
Seeking help for your child through therapy or an evaluation can provide detail recommendations on how to support your child. However, as a parent you can begin the process at home by following some of these suggestions:
- Practice mindfulness strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, or stopping to focus on the here and now.
- Model Mindfulness and staying calm as children’s sense of safety often depends on the perceived safety of their attachment figures.
- Encourage a growth mindset or the belief that their abilities can be changed through their hard work. Help empower your child by giving them choices. When an anxious child feels they do not have control over a situation they tend to grow more anxious.
By: Dr. Teneisha McIntyre