Anxiety in children and teens….could it be their environment?

Can children suffer from anxiety? YES, absolutely!

Can it interfere with everyday life and their overall well being? Again, YES, absolutely!!!

Do they tell us they are anxious?? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Children and teens are not able to recognize signs and symptoms of anxiety. Most children are not mature enough to verbalize these unknown, uncontrollable and scary feelings. Often anxiety can be related to the child’s environment. It may be their home environment, school environment, or another environment such as sports, church, school bus, etc. It is not usually an easy diagnosis, nor is it easy for the parents to reach out for help. Often times, the parents may have anxiety issues as well. I have talked with many children that have anxiety issues, and find that more than half of them have one or both parents with anxiety issues. Some of these children have issues because of the parents anxiety. Some of these children have issues because of other problems related to their family, such as lack of good parenting skills, loss of a loved one, loss of a parent to divorce or death, an ill family member, or a recent stressful event. Just as often, this anxiety could be from an environment outside of the home, the issue could be bullying in school, traumatic events in the news, severe weather situations, an inappropriate or abusive relationship by a trusted adult, a stressful event at school or in the in the local community, natural disasters, and many other situations.

What does anxiety look like?? Anxiety in children and adolescents can present as shyness, fearfulness, acting out, impulsive behavior, sleep problems, headaches, stomach aches, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, chest pain, shortness of breath, and just an all over feeling of discomfort. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) describes anxiety as “the fearful anticipation of further danger or problems accompanied by an intense unpleasant feeling (dysphoria) or physical symptoms.” Anxiety is more common in children and adolescents than we realize. Statistics show that only 25% of childhood anxiety is actually diagnosed. That means there are A LOT of children out there dealing with more than they can handle, and they DO NOT know how to ask for help!

So, what can you do to help children with anxiety issues?

  • Write or draw in a journal daily.
  • Spend time together. Quality and quantity of time matter.
  • Exercise at least 3-4 days a week.
  • Eat 3 balanced meals a day.
  • Play an instrument.
  • Talk about fears/concerns.
  • Get adequate sleep. (See my post about sleep: Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development)
  • Talk to your child’s primary care provider to determine if medicine is necessary for your child.

Anxiety can affect any child at any time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Recognizing anxiety in children is not always easy. Figuring out why a child is anxious can be quite challenging as well. Working closely with a professional can help you help your child.

In the next couple weeks, I will be cramming for my mental health certification. (All prayers are welcome! Thanks!) I am hoping to work more closely with children that have mental health challenges such as anxiety. These children are often mislabeled as shy, uncooperative, having ADHD or behavior problems. Talking to the right professional can make all the difference in how well the child is able to manage and cope with this challenging disorder. My goal will be to help these children and their families deal with and overcome these overwhelming feelings. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to send me an email.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it… PARENTING IS THE HARDEST JOB YOU WILL EVER HAVE!!! No doubt about it. Regardless of the challenges, your child will always be worth the efforts you put into being a good parent.

I hope this bit of insight helps you Enjoy the journey! 🙂

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