By   April 15, 2019

Anxiety is a normal response to stressful events such as tests or friend drama

Anxiety disorders arise when the anxiety is out-of-proportion to the situation and impairs daily functioning

If anxiety impairs functioning, then it is important to recognize and seek treatment. First line treatment is usually Cognitive Behavior Therapy through a trained therapist/counselor

Symptoms include overwhelming worry, difficulty tolerating uncertainty, an overactive response to fears and avoidance of situations

Some children react with explosive fear and others react by shutting down emotionally

Children with anxiety disorders often avoid situations that may trigger anxiety

What can you do to help?

Explain that anxiety is a normal part of life and learning to identify and respond to anxiety thoughts can really be helpful

  1. Model positive coping skills in your own everyday anxiety provoking events
  1. Remain calm and carry on
  2. Reframe (change) your own thoughts to recognize that you can work through the anxiety
  3. Make positive comments such as “I know this is stressful, but I can handle this”
  4. Avoid negative comments like “I’ll never get through this”
  5. If you think/say that you cannot handle everyday events, your child will quickly think the same about themselves
  1. Help your childidentify the anxiety provoking thoughts he/she may have and show them how to reframe (change) their own thoughts
  1. It is okay to validate fears by asking your child what makes them afraid
  2. For a simple example, if a child is afraid of the dark at bedtime
  • Turn on the light, look under beds, in closets to show there is nothing to fear
  • Turn off the light, lie with your child, point out shadows that are stuffed animals, furniture, etc.
  • Turn on the light and point out the items that caused the shadows
  • Repeat this process as many times as necessary for the child to gain confidence that the frightening shadows are really not frightening at all
  1. You are showing the child that he/she can think through the fear using logic
  2. And that he/she is in control of their own thoughts
  • I can be afraid but face the fear and make it go away
  • I am not in danger
  • I can be strong/brave
  1. What not to do
  • Do not say or think: “He probably won’t hold up if I don’t help him”
  • “I have to save her from this awful feeling”

There are many types of anxiety in children and adolescents:

  • Separation anxiety: When children are worried about being separated from caregivers
  • Social anxiety: When children are excessively self-conscious around others or in groups
  • Selective mutism: When children cannot speak in some settings, like at school
  • Generalized anxiety: When children worry about a wide variety of everyday things. Kids with generalized anxiety often struggle with perfectionism
  • Specific phobias: When children have excessive fear of particular things. This includes arachnophobia, fear of spiders, or school phobia, refusing to go to school
  • Panic disorder: When children have sudden, unpredictable panic attacks that may cause feelings of impending death or doom and symptoms of rapid heartbeat, difficulty catching their breath, and sweating
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): When children have unwanted thoughts that feel stuck in their minds and they try to neutralize the thoughts with ritualized behaviors such as touching the light switch 3 times or counting steps
  • Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD): When children have symptoms after a disturbing event such as difficulty sleeping, nightmares, irritability, and flashbacks or reliving the event

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