Anxious children are a normal part of growing up, but when it turns into anxiety disorders in children, you might be in for the long haul and need help.
Anxiety impacts not only a child’s physical health but also their emotional stability and behavioral patterns.
Excessive worry, for instance, can lead to sleep issues, social distress, and difficulty participating in daily life.
That’s why it’s important to find out if their anxiety isn’t a short-term bump in the road.
Utilizing a “childhood anxiety symptoms checklist” can help identify if your child is experiencing more than just typical nerves.
- Understanding and addressing anxiety in children can be a challenging task for parents, but it’s not an impossible one.
- Utilize this free printable to identify potential signs of anxiety in children, such as physical complaints and emotional/behavioral indicators.
- Use open communication to help your child understand and manage their anxiety while also creating a healthy lifestyle.
- Seek professional help if necessary while nurturing resilience through long-term strategies for managing anxiety.
Childhood Anxiety Symptoms Checklist
This checklist will help you identify if your child is showing symptoms of anxiety. This was made from my own experience with our daughter, who has anxiety. Please seek professional medical help.
It includes signs such as physical signs of anxiety, separation anxiety, changes in school behaviors, and social anxiety.
Physical Signs of Anxiety
Children with anxiety can exhibit a wide range of physical symptoms, from tummy aches to trouble breathing.
A child with anxiety might complain about recurrent stomachaches, headaches, or muscle tension, which can significantly impact their daily life.
These physical manifestations might seem unrelated to anxiety, but they’re often a child’s way of communicating their emotional distress.
Sleep disturbances, such as trouble sleeping and difficulty sleeping, like having trouble falling asleep or experiencing frequent awakenings throughout the night, can also be a sign of anxiety.
If your child is excessively worried about being separated from you, they might be experiencing separation anxiety.
In toddlers, separation anxiety is a common form of anxiety, past the normally “clingy phase” we think about.
It’s characterized by outbursts, avoidance of activities that involve separation from parents or caregivers, and reluctance to sleep independently.
This could manifest in them not wanting to go to school, sleepovers, or anywhere without you.
Change In School Behaviors
Anxiety might cause a significant change in your child’s behavior at school. They might start avoiding certain activities or become more withdrawn.
Frequent requests to visit the school nurse or excessive worry about grades and tests could also be signs of anxiety.
They may also have difficulty concentrating, leading to a drop in academic performance.
In some cases, children with anxiety may exhibit disruptive behavior. This could include acting out, being defiant, or showing aggression.
It’s important to remember that these behaviors often stem from feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope rather than intentional misbehavior.
If your child is overly worried about social situations, they might have social anxiety. This could show up as them avoiding social situations like parties or playdates.
Anxious children often avoid new situations or activities that make them anxious. This avoidance behavior can prevent them from experiencing new things and hinder their growth.
Identifying these emotional and behavioral signs is crucial for comprehending and addressing your child’s anxiety.
Understanding Childhood Anxiety
Childhood anxiety extends beyond temporary fear or nervousness. It’s defined by intense and recurring feelings of worry and anxiety that may persist for weeks or longer.
These ongoing symptoms characterize it:
- Excessive worry or fear over situations or events
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Irritability or easily becoming upset
- Sleep issues, like trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or having nightmares
- Physical problems, such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension
While it’s true that every child experiences anxiety, the onset of an anxiety disorder may stem from various factors such as genetics, brain wiring, and exposure to stressful events.
Getting Help For Childhood Anxiety
If your child’s anxiety begins to impact their academic performance and family relationships, it may be time to consider professional intervention.
The first step is to schedule an appointment with a general practitioner to discuss your child’s symptoms and worries.
If the GP suspects an anxiety disorder, they might refer your child for an assessment with a mental health professional who works within specialized services for children with mental health issues.
If your child is reluctant to seek medical assistance, consider youth counseling services as a potential alternative for many children, including younger children.
See A Psychiatrist (Testing & Treatment)
The psychiatrist will engage with your child and may use clinical assessments to understand the nature of their symptoms.
This could involve asking about your child’s feelings, emotions, and behavior and exploring any patterns that may indicate an anxiety disorder.
Getting a diagnosis from a psychiatrist can be an essential step in understanding what your child is experiencing and how best to support them.
Additionally, the psychiatrist can guide you toward appropriate treatment options, including medication, therapy, or a combination of both.
See A Psychologist (Talk Therapy)
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, involves regular sessions where the child can express their feelings and thoughts in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
The psychologist can help the child understand their anxiety, identify triggers, and develop strategies to manage their symptoms.
The psychologist may use different approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps children change negative thought patterns that lead to anxiety.
They might also use play therapy for younger children, where they can express their feelings through play.
The goal of talk therapy is not only to help children manage their current anxiety symptoms but also to equip them with the skills to handle future anxiety-provoking situations.
This therapy can enhance a child’s self-esteem, improve their problem-solving skills, and strengthen their coping mechanisms.
What’s the difference between having anxiety and an anxiety disorder (aka clinical anxiety)?
Everyone experiences anxiety during their life, but when it starts to interfere with daily life or family life, it might be an anxiety disorder.
Life events can cause short-term anxiety but also grow into anxiety disorders that stick around and impede how you live your life.
With an anxiety disorder, worries tend to extend for long periods of time and get worse over time as well.
What anxiety disorders can present in children?
Children can experience multiple anxiety disorders just like adults, including:
- General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Specific Phobias
- Social Phobia
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Selective Mutism
Not only that, but emotional abuse and other problems can also cause kids to act outside the norm, so knowing more information and behaviors are both important.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, prevention programs, and stress management techniques are some established long-term approaches to treat anxiety in children and adults.
What techniques can help a child with anxiety?
Techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and yoga can help a child cope with anxiety.
Healthy lifestyle changes and healthy coping mechanisms are significant in managing childhood anxiety as they promote overall well-being and provide children with practical skills to handle stress.
Some examples of healthy lifestyle changes and coping mechanisms include:
- Regular exercise
- Healthy eating habits
- Sufficient sleep
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques
- Seeking support from trusted adults or professionals
What is the 3/3/3 technique for kids (aka grounding)?
The 3/3/3 technique, also known as the Rule of Three, is a grounding exercise that can help a child calm down during a moment of anxiety.
It involves identifying 3 things they can see, 3 things they can touch, and 3 things they can hear.
It’s an easy way to focus on the real and tangible and let the emotions calm down without spiraling.
Childhood anxiety is more than just a phase – it’s a condition that affects many children and families worldwide.
Understanding its signs, knowing when it becomes a problem, and learning how to manage it will make a significant difference in your child’s life.
Addressing childhood anxiety is crucial for your child’s well-being. If you think your child might be experiencing anxiety, it’s important to seek help.
Remember, you’re not alone in this journey.
With the right knowledge, support, and professional help, you can navigate this challenging path with resilience and empathy, ensuring your child’s healthier, brighter future.