Childhood Anxiety: How to Spot the Signs

Children of all ages can experience worry or anxiety at different times in their life. For example, your son or daughter might fear starting a new school or overwhelmed when first joining a nursery. However, if their worries affect their thoughts, behaviour, and performance at school, they may be living with an anxiety disorder. Continue reading to learn how to spot the signs of childhood anxiety. 

Potential Causes of an Anxiety Disorder 

While some children are naturally anxious, the mental health disorder can develop after a stressful event, such as: 

  • The death of a loved one 
  • Their parents arguing or fighting 
  • Moving school or house 
  • A serious illness or injury 
  • A school issue, such as bullying, peer pressure, or exams 
  • Abuse or neglect 

Also, it is important to note that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to develop anxiety. 

The Common Childhood Anxiety Signs 

Children might showcase some of the same behaviours as adults living with an anxiety disorder; however, there are other signs you must monitor. 

Common signs of a childhood anxiety disorder can include: 

  • Concentration issues 
  • Irritability 
  • Emotional outbursts 
  • Insomnia or broken sleep 
  • Poor eating habits 
  • Negative or fearful thoughts 
  • Separation anxiety (common in young children) 
  • Stomach aches or nausea 
  • Clinginess 
  • Appearing tense or fidgety 
  • Using the bathroom frequently 

Talk to Your Son or Daughter 

If your son or daughter is displaying any of the above childhood anxiety signs, you must talk to them. Learn about different self-help treatments to help your child overcome an anxiety disorder, such as: 

  • Exercising 
  • Meditating 
  • Embracing hobbies 
  • Going for a walk outdoors 
  • Journaling 
  • Trying relaxing activities, such as reading a book, painting or taking a warm bath 

Also, aim to get to the root cause of your child’s anxiety, as you could provide advice and tips that could eliminate their worries or concerns. For example, their anxiety could stem from school, peer pressure, social media, or cyberbullying. 

Deep Breathing 

There are various coping mechanisms you and your child can do together. Whenever they seem overwhelmed or upset, sit down with them and encourage them to breathe deeply. Instruct them to count slowly to five as they breathe in, and then count to five slowly as they breathe out. Repeat this action to help them calm down and feel in greater control of their anxious thoughts.  

Provide Reassurance 

Your love and support can make your child feel safe and relaxed. Holding your hand, a cuddle, and a kind word will be soothing, which can help them see the light through the clouds. Remind them how loved they are and that they can come to you with any worry or fear at any time. It could help them open up about their emotions and cope with the mental health disorder. 

Think of a Safe Place or Person 

Tell your child to think of a safe person or environment when an anxious thought strikes. For example, they might feel comforted when thinking of a specific grandparent, their bedroom, or their favourite holiday spot. It could help calm their mind and combat any physical manifestations, such as nausea or irritability. 

Seek Professional Help for Childhood Anxiety 

If self-help tactics don’t work and your child’s anxiety is spiralling out of control, you must seek professional help for your son or daughter. While they might be reluctant to talk to a doctor about their feelings, a diagnosis and treatment can help them to restore their mental health. 

In the UK, if a GP believes your son or daughter has an anxiety disorder, they may refer them to the children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS) for an assessment. Here your child could receive the help they need to combat an anxiety disorder. 

The Treatment Options for Childhood Anxiety 

A doctor could recommend different childhood anxiety treatments to help your son or daughter. However, your child’s age will likely determine the treatment they receive. 

Common childhood anxiety treatments include: 

  • Counselling – a counsellor will help your son or daughter identify why they feel anxious and potential triggers. Also, they can provide helpful coping strategies to soothe their anxiety. 
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – talking therapy can change how your child thinks and behaves to help them manage their anxiety disorder. 
  • Anxiety medication – a doctor can prescribe medication for children living with severe anxiety or if talking therapies fail. 

Childhood Anxiety Helplines for Your Son or Daughter 

If your son or daughter refuses to talk to you about their anxiety, encourage them to open up to a trained professional via the following helplines: 

  • No Panic – 0330 606 1174 or email (for ages 13-20) 
  • Childline – 0800 1111 (for those 19 and under) 
  • The Mix – 0808 808 4994 (for anyone under 25) 
  • YoungMinds Crisis Messenger – free 24/7 text support, text YM to 85258 (for young people across the UK) 

Also, the above helplines offer helpful websites that can provide young people with advice to overcome mental health issues. Also, some of the helplines feature a free online chat service. 

Childhood Anxiety Helplines for Parents 

Dealing with an anxious child can feel difficult, and you will undoubtedly want to help your child move on from the mental health disorder. If you need additional advice and support, the following organizations could help: 

READ NEXT: How to Spot the Signs of Cyberbullying 

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