Anyone who has struggled with anxiety knows it’s a struggle, and this is for both children and adults alike. During this unpredictable time, anxiety in children is on the rise. With one in eight children diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder, it’s important for parents to know what to look for, as well as ways to help their children manage, and even embrace, their anxiety.
Colleenia Korapatti, licensed mental health counselor and the founder of The Anxiety Relief Center in Fishers, offers advice for parents who might be wondering if their child is struggling with anxiety, and what they can do to help.
How can I tell if my child is struggling with anxiety?
The first signs of anxiety in children are not always obvious. In such unsteady times, it’s common to write things off by telling yourself, “All kids are stressed.” Anxiety may require treatment if your child is demonstrating an impairment in one of the following life areas: sleep, school, spiritual life, recreation or family life.
How do I help my child manage their anxiety?
Modeling is the most important way to help your child manage their anxiety. As parents, we can verbalize advice, yet our children see what we do by the way of nonverbal behaviors. Ask yourself, “Is my own presentation anxious?” If you do not struggle with anxiety yourself, modeling coping with worrisome thoughts will not be difficult. If you recognize you are feeling overly anxious yourself, it may be time to modify some of the things your child sees or hears. Make it a priority to incorporate relaxation and coping skills into the family routine, such as meditation, physical activity, art or spiritual practices.
How can I help normalize the behavior?
Without professional guidance, parents must remain cautious about normalizing anxious behaviors in case a diagnosable condition is present. Over a period of time, an anxiety disorder can impact our physical health if it is not treated properly. If your child is not showing impairments in their day-to-day functioning, validation needs to be a key component of family discussions. Listening, paraphrasing and summarizing the information your child complains of will reduce worried feelings. Remain mindful of sharing your own stressors with your child. Attempts to solve problems for your child can have negative consequences, as well. Focusing your energy on presence with your child will help reduce worry.
How can I tell the difference between a typical amount of anxiety versus an actual disorder?
2020 seems to have brought about a plethora of emotions for everyone because our life has changed dramatically. Emotional ups and downs may come with the territory. However, excessive worry, panic attacks and physical complaints that last more than two weeks may be dealt with by consulting with your child’s school counselor, licensed therapist or a medical professional. Objective guidance will help you feel confident that your parenting decisions are healthy for your child and your family.
It’s important for parents, and children, to know they aren’t alone in their struggles with anxiety, and that there are many resources available for families. If you feel your child is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. It may be life changing: not only for your child, but also for your family as a whole.