Mental anxiety and stress has become one of the most common mental health issues that 20% of children face in their life. Blame it on the lifestyle, competitive environment or higher expectation of parents from their kids, anxiety has increased drastically over the time, and the numbers have been rising steadily .
Though some children are born more anxious and less able to cope up with stress, but mostly children develop anxiety by just being around anxious people. Anxiety can also develop after some stressful events which has occurred in their life and if they fail to deal with it, like frequently changing house or school, losing a dear one- a parent,friend, relative or a pet, being bullied , being compared, unloving parents, sibling rivalry, violence, abuse, stress among parents, separation etc. Anxiety maybe present as fear or worry, but it also make children irritable and angry.
It is very important for a parent to see the red flags before the child gets into depression. Let us find out the symptoms of anxiety first.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress in Children
- Trouble in sleeping
- Lack of concentration
- Nail biting
- Picking at skin
- Fear of being alone
- Using toilet often
- Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling tensed
- Not connecting
- Lack of belongingness
- Isolation from the surrounding
Some children also keep their worries to themselves and hence the symptoms can be missed. So, it is very important for parents to keep the loop of conversation always open, where a child can easily reach out to them when he/she feels stressed out or dejected. To have a heart to heart talk with their children and not to judge them. Give them a positive and healthy environment to grow- the idea is to make them more strong to deal with stress and anxiety, and not to eliminate stress from their life.
How to help a child to escape the cycle of Anxiety & Stress
Express only realistic expectations- Nobody likes to see an unhappy child, but, you can’t promise a child that his fears are unrealistic and shouldn’t exist. Fear is a common emotion which is present in every individual. So as parents, you need to make your child strong to deal with it. Tell him – it’s okay to fail, tell him if he falls down while playing basketball with his friends, his friends might laugh at him but that’s not the end of the world and doesn’t quality him as a bad player. Express confidence that he’s going to be okay, and this gives him confidence that your expectations are realistic, and like this the level of anxiety will drop with time.
Do not ask leading questions all the time– Do not ask him all the time if he’s anxious, or worried or stressed. This will make him more anxious.
Do not strengthen the child’s fears – The more you encourage fear, the more it grows. Your son had a very bad experience with a dog last time and whenever he’s around a dog, you get anxious which indirectly makes him more anxious.
Encourage children to tolerate their anxiety – You can not eliminate stress and anxiety from his life but you can always encourage him, tell him that you appreciate the way he’s dealing with stress and anxiety , which boosts his confidence and with time anxiety takes a natural curve, we call it the “habituation curve” and it drops over time as he continues to have contact with the stressor.
Try to keep the count-on period short– You’re taking your son for his swimming classes today at 4 pm, he’s just a beginner and still learning to float in the water. Do not get into a discussion about it from the morning, reduce the anticipatory period. Remember, the feeling of doing something fearful is more than the actual event.
Be empathetic– Try to see things from their eyes. Their world is different from yours. A big issue for them could be nothing for you.
Model healthy ways of handling anxiety – Children perceive what they see and hear. The other day you were talking to one of your friends over the phone about how stressed you’re because of some issues at your work place, and your child hears you. So, put this across in such a way that they see how calmly you’re managing stress in your life.
As said , parents are the creators and nurturers of their children. Mental Anxiety and stress in children can not be eliminated, but can surely be treated if we follow some simple practices. The idea is to make them more habituated with their surroundings and the stress-full events, and teach them survival skills.
Share your experience and how you helped you child to overcome anxiety, in the comment box 🙂