Children who suffer from anxiety may end up becoming people-pleasers for fear of disappointing someone they love. Julia Colangelo, LCSW, a cognitive-behavioral therapist, says that parents should try and boost their kids' self-esteem and assertiveness by taking "some coaching classes to learn how to develop these skills [in their child] if they notice that their child is always 'being pushed around' or not asking for what they want or need."
While loads of kids love playing video games, those suffering from anxiety may end up sitting in front of screens more often, as a way of escaping. Chicago Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Center's lead therapist, Dan Mortenson, PhD, says that "excessive use of screen-based activities can often be a sign that a child is struggling and trying to escape from difficult emotions." If your child is going through this, try to interact with them while they make use of technology, by playing games with them or by asking them questions.
Anxiety often manifests itself through obsessive physical rituals, such as hand-washing. Other types of rituals include nail-biting, scratching the scalp, chanting, shaky hands, and sweating. Try to encourage anxious children to develop adequate coping mechanisms, such as keeping a journal or meditating.
Anxious children often have trouble falling asleep or may keep waking up through the night. That's why they may suddenly keep asking to sleep in their parents' bed every night. If this happens, it's essential to stick to a rigid bedtime routine that you're a part of, which may include reading together, listening to relaxing music together or even bathing young children.
According to a 2015 study published in Pediatrics, moderate and severe selective eating patterns may be associated with anxiety. For some kids, undiagnosed sensory sensitivities may play a big part in anxiety toward new kinds of food. It's essential for parents to talk to a pediatrician as soon as they notice changes in eating patterns or increased food aversions.
If a child who was once a social butterfly now prefers to spend time alone, it may be a sign of both depression and anxiety. Colangelo advises parents to "explore ways to engage their children one-on-one with other children or siblings," such as through team sports, playgroups or other social activities.
According to Rebecca R. Berry, Ph.D, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center of Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone, children often express their anxiety through mysterious aches and pains, often stemming from the stomach or head. She says that parents may be able to ease such anxiety-related pain by helping their child "tolerate the uncomfortable physical feelings that may accompany stress," such as through deep breathing exercises.
If an independent child suddenly becomes more dependent and emotionally attached to one of their parents, then this could be a sign of anxiety. Parents should be aware of how any recent changes are affecting a child's life, and should always make sure to always give them a consistently reassuring response.
If your child seems to be asking a lot of questions for reassurance, rather than out of general curiosity, then they could be suffering from anxiety. Parents can help their child out by asking them questions without being intrusive, in order to help identify where the child's fears and worries stem from.
If your child often puts off doing their homework, this may be due to them being worried about not actually doing it correctly. All you need to do to get them motivated is to offer a helping hand. When a child knows that someone cares enough to give up their time for them, they'll usually start feeling a lot better.
If your potty-trained kid suddenly starts getting constipated, wetting the bed, or refusing to use the toilet, then this may be a sign of anxiety. When this happens, parents should avoid scolding the child, but should instead offer a lending ear for when they're ready to talk. In this way, your kid will know that they can come to you whenever they want to without fear of being judged.
Anxious children often tend to skip after-school activities in favor of staying home by themselves, where they'll feel safe and protected. If this happens, it's important to validate your child's concerns and negotiate an appropriate balance, such as only attending activities that they seem naturally-talented at.
Extreme fatigue is one of anxiety's leading symptoms. If school life seems to be psychologically and physically draining your child, then you may need to find time to help your child relax in a constructive way when they return from school.
If a child's diligence begins to resemble perfectionism, then anxiety could be to blame. If your child's focus on academic success seems to be hindering the development of other important activities, then you may need to sit down with your child and have a good chat that will put all of their goals into perspective.
If your child is regularly experiencing sudden and intense mood swings, then anxiety could be the root cause. When you notice this happening, try and engage your child in a conversation, which will help you pinpoint the exact cause of their worries and behavior.