A Guide to Coping with Childhood Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood and growing up, and it’s safe to say everyone experiences some level of anxiety throughout their lifetime. For a certain number of people, though, childhood anxiety may turn into teen and adult anxiety. In fact, we all probably know an adult whom we think of as a chronic “worry wart,” but does that meant they’re affected by anxiety?

As parents, learning how to manage childhood anxiety can be beneficial both for your children and the adults they will become.

Anxiety Can Be Positive

Positive or normal anxiety protects us from danger and can help us reach goals. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s temporary and will gradually go away. The heightened anxiety a child feels before a test at school or an adult experiences before a job interview can either drive us to do our best or cause us to fail miserably. Learning how to manage anxiety for life is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.

Normal Worry

Child with Anxiety

Childhood should be a carefree and happy time for kids, but unfortunately, for many kids this is not the case. If a child becomes fearful or anxious after watching a scary movie, that’s quite normal and usually is forgotten in a day or two. Being afraid of the dark, of strangers, or of being separated from parents are common behaviors for young children.

Conversely, when a youngster is fearful of social events, school, getting on the bus, or just going outside of their home, this is a more serious situation, and parents would be wise to take note.

Thinking they will “grow out of it,” or that it’s “just a phase” might work for a while, but unless parents intervene and address their child’s fears, they may never be able to provide their child with the skills needed to deal with life’s challenges.

Tips To Help Parents Manage Childhood Anxiety

Try the following suggestions if your child seems overly anxious:

  • Explain to your child that everyone gets worried sometimes, and it’s a normal feeling.
  • Remain calm and avoid anger when your child is anxious.
  • For young children, create a worry box and  a “worry time.” Take 15 minutes each day and have your child write down what they are worried about today. Then throw those worries in the box and close the lid. Eventually there will be less and less things to write down.
  • For younger children, try making up a character. Give that character a name like Wally the Worrier and have your child talk to Wally and explain why he shouldn’t be so worried.
  • Reward brave behavior and respond with praise.
  • Model the calm behavior you want to see from your child. Talk slowly, make eye contact, and reassure them everything is OK.

When To Seek Help

When your child worries all the time, constantly ponders about what might happen, has headaches and stomach ailments, and gradually shows a decline in grades, it may be time to seek the help of a professional. These can all be signs that your child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, which can affect all phases of a child’s day to day life such as eating, sleeping, and concentration in school.

Depression, eating disorders, and suicide rates are only continuing to increase, and many believe these problems begin with anxiety disorders. The best thing to do for your child is to seek help at an early stage, so that they can learn how to properly cope and manage their anxiety, rather than spiraling downward because of it.

If you think your child is experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety, please contact Pediatrics 5280 for an evaluation and advice. Our experienced child psychologist, Dr. Natalie Vona, will be more than happy to help your family work through these issues to find a better outcome for you and your child.