Is your child experiencing overwhelming or disruptive anxiety?
Parents are often tasked with helping their children work through intense emotions. It comes in many forms, such as mediating sibling disputes or teaching children how to express themselves during a meltdown. Young people have big feelings and helping them children navigate the world of human emotion is normal and natural.
What happens when anxious thoughts and nervous habits go beyond everyday challenges? How should a parent respond if he or she suspects that one of their children is facing more than just run-of-the-mill emotions?
The Center for Disease Control estimates that over 4 million children in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders – and studies show that the number of diagnoses is rising each year. While everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of disordered anxiety in children.
If you are concerned about your son or daughter’s mental health, here is a guide to recognize the signs of anxiety and how to help.
Anxiety is the physiological response people experience when they are exposed to stressful situations. Symptoms may include racing heart, sweaty palms, feeling light-headed or dizzy, and overwhelming fear. In certain situations, anxiety is a powerful survival instinct. If you’re faced with danger, your body’s adrenaline rush can give you the power to protect yourself or leave a situation urgently. This is your fight or flight response.
However, the human brain is a complex organ and may not interpret the threats faced in everyday life correctly. You might intellectually understand that you are not in real danger, but your body may react intensely to situations you find uncomfortable. Thus, a school presentation or social interaction may illicit the extreme anxiety of a bear attack.
Does your child struggle with anxiety? Here are a few signs to watch for:
- Avoidance – relying on parents or friends to do things, or avoiding everyday situations where he or she feels anxious
- Physical symptoms – insomnia, digestive issues, headaches
- Excessive fears over social situations and interactions
- Constantly seeking reassurance
While the natural adrenaline response may protect us in nature, it can hinder daily life. If you notice that your child is overwhelmed by anxiety regularly, it may be a sign that he or she needs assistance with controlling fear and emotions.
How you can help your child
If you notice signs of excessive anxiety in your child, it may be helpful to sit down together and have a conversation about anxiety and its effects. Help your child make his or her anxiety personal and external – name the emotions and acknowledge situations where it manifests.
You can help your child learn to recognize when his or her emotions are taking over and learn how to cope with these intense feelings.
Encourage gentle exposure. Situations that are distressing and anxiety-producing are scary but important. Success comes from leaving our comfort zone, and it is essential for anyone with anxiety to resist the impulse to avoid all uncomfortable interactions.
That doesn’t mean that you should force your child into scenarios that he or she may find traumatizing. Rather, encourage them to embrace his or her inner courage and face fears.
Try using language that acknowledges your child’s fears while also encouraging him or her to embrace challenges. “It is okay that you feel nervous, but you can still do a great job on your science fair presentation,” or, “I know you may feel uncomfortable making friends, but it is still a good idea to go to this function and talk with the other students.”
When to seek help
If anxiety is becoming a major part of your child’s day-to-day life, consider therapeutic intervention. Talk to your physician about ways to help your child with his or her anxiety. Occasional anxiety is normal, but a serious case of anxiety may be an indication of a bigger issue.
Tutoring at American Heritage School
Your child may need extra help to avoid falling behind due to Covid-19. The American Academy is offering a specialized Tutoring Program for Lower, Middle, and High School students.
Subject areas include:
- Foreign Language
- Physical Education
- Social Studies
Join The American Academy Program
The American Academy Program – a college preparatory school for students with mild learning differences - was created to help students who struggle with learning disorders.
Our small classroom setting allows students to receive more individual attention. Together with experts and teachers, we can ensure that your child is taught methods that will help him or her do well in school.
We are now accepting applications for the upcoming school year. Please reach out to Alexandra Rollins with any questions you may have.