When most parents think of childhood anxiety, they picture a young child who is always crying or biting their fingernails, constantly making excuses as to why they can’t do something or are overly obsessed about every detail in their lives.
While some of the behavior described above is true, there are other signs your child may be suffering from anxiety including the following:
•Bursts into tears over small things and displays uncontrollable sobbing.
•Expresses intense rage and emotion with a lack of emotional regulation.
•Complains of frequent stomach, head or body aches to avoid going to school or other activities involving kids.
•Repeatedly ask questions, often asking the same questions over and over, seeking assurance and validation from the adults around them.
•Is often distracted and has problems concentrating on schoolwork and small tasks. Their anxiety makes them obsess over issues and will take over their train of thought.
So what triggers anxiety in children? It can be any number of factors including those listed below:
•Parents –If a child lives with a parent who is a perfectionist, or who constantly pressures the child to be perfect, that can trigger panic attacks when the child feels he/she is not living up to their parent’s expectations. Also, a child can learn to be anxious from their parents. If the parents are constantly nervous and showing anxiety when dealing with various situations, the child sees this and will mimic that behavior.
•Bullying –If a child is being bullied by their peers or older children, they may start to exhibit signs whenever they are faced with having to encounter the bully. They may even ask you to help them get out of certain classes or in a worse case scenario, ask you if they can transfer schools. This is a huge red flag that something serious is going on at your child’s school or activity, and you need to ask questions to get to the bottom of it. Do not count on the situation getting better on its own. Get involved!
Academic and Athletic Pressure –The child may feel unbearable pressure to perform academically in certain fields to fulfill their family’s wishes and not their own. Or, they may feel the pressure from coaches and parents to perform athletically to qualify for very competitive scholarships and team championships.
•Death –Children don’t always have the tools or emotional maturity to handle the death of a close loved one or family pet. Watch them closely during an event like this.
•Moving –Moving to a new school, home or across country can cause extreme anxiety in a child because of the unknown. Will they like the new house, school, etc.? Will they be able to make new friends easily?
•Divorce or Domestic Violence –Whenever a child witnesses a parent being the victim of domestic violence, they can become sad, angry or anxious that it may happen again in the future. When parents divorce, kids are torn between them especially if it is acrimonious. They love both parents and experience anxiety trying not to hurt either one when they are visiting the different households.
It’s important for parents to pay close attention to their children and watch for signs of anxiety. Talk to your children daily and ask questions. A lot of times, children want to share what’s bothering them, but feel like their parents are too busy to listen or won’t understand. The most important thing you can do as a parent –Be Present whenever you’re with your kids!