Anxiety in Children: Recognition and Management

Anxiety in children does not look the same as it does in adults, which often leaves parents feeling defenceless. How do I know if my child is experiencing anxiety? And what can I do to help them? Are two questions being asked by parents everywhere.

How can I recognise anxiety symptoms in my child?

Anxiety can manifest physically. Take note of somatic symptoms. It may be easier for your child to verbalize physical symptoms over emotional symptoms. Listening and exploring the physical symptoms with your child may help you identify emotional symptoms as well. Behavioral issues may also be an identifier of anxiety. If you are dealing with disruptive behavior and feeling as though it is unmanaged regardless of your effort. Anxiety may be the underlying issue.

What can I do to help my child manage anxiety?

Build connections. Laughing together, showing affection, and sharing common interests all build a connection. Making connections naturally reduces stress for both parent and child.

Leave space for transitions. Being rushed, and not knowing what is happening can be triggers for anxiety in children and adults alike. Think about ways to soften transitions. Prepare them for what's to come. Share your schedule with them. Create rituals and routines for doing everyday things to build predictability and self-sufficiency.

Model for anxiety management yourself. Let them see and understand what helps you. Actively point out how you manage stress and fear.

Be comfortable with anxiety. Talk about it, play about it, read about it, normalise uncertainty and doubt, nervousness, excitement, tension, and anticipation. Normalising it gives your child the language to recognize it in themselves, it prevents stigma and opens communication.

Look for resources. Talk to your health care provider. Use the medical community and school resources.

Recognizing anxiety in your child is never a comfortable thing for parents, but with healthy anxiety management the emotional awareness that results can be a strength to prepare them for a lifetime of healthy coping. Through learning about and navigating their anxiety together, you can strengthen your relationship with your child.

Author credit: @yarrowtherapy