Identifying Anxiety in Kids and How to Help
What does anxiety look like in kids? Unsurprisingly, it is not all that different from adults. The difficulty is that kids usually don’t have the awareness around what to call it when they are feeling ‘bad butterflies.’ They often let us know when something is not quite right – sometimes its as simple as asking a lot of ‘what if…’ questions that come from a place of worry, not curiosity.
Physical Signs of Anxiety to Look Out For:
- Clammy hands
- Short of breath
- Dry mouth
- Racing heartbeat
- Concentration issues
- Poor sleeping
- Tense muscles
Because there may be a different underlying cause, be sure to check with a medical professional if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Many of these symptoms could also be signs of other neurological conditions or illnesses. You know your child best – and what is normal for them.
Your little one is the best person to help you determine the root cause of why they are upset. If they are old enough, simply ask. Keeping an open mind and accepting of their perspective is key. If they are younger or nonverbal, review what other factors may be at play. What has changed recently? Is there a new baby or pet in the house? If they are avoiding school, perhaps explore the possibility that they’re struggling academically – or worse yet – suffering bullying.
Major life events can have a huge effect on children, even if they seem to be coping well. Consider some lateral thinking:
- Is your child upset around days when it is raining or stormy?
- Have they watched something that may have disturbed them, perhaps too violent or scary for them to process adequately?
An excellent resource is the Spence Anxiety Scale – a simple questionnaire to help guide grown-ups.
What To Do When You Think Your Child has Anxiety
If you think you’ve identified anxiety in your child, seek resources online and in your local community. Be sure to speak to your family doctor, as well. It may be handy to use an anxiety tracker to help identify and pre-empt potential triggers so you can manage them together. Keep your little one involved in decision-making and answering questions as best you can – there are bound to be a thousand!
Exercise your self-care and set a positive example for them on ways to manage stress. Children mirror and absorb so much information from us, even when we don’t think they are watching.
Honesty, open communication, and teamwork are the best ingredients for successfully managing anxiety. Your support will mean the world to your little one! Identifying an anxiety condition early on will ensure your child can receive the care they need and any intervention to strengthen their resilience.