Recognizing Anxiety in Children

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As parents begin to prepare for their children to return to school (or maybe even start school for the first time), it is essential for parents to be aware of common signs of anxiety within children. Children may experience anxiety due to: changes in their schedule, being in a new classroom/school and having new teachers, being away from their primary caregiver(s), performance anxiety, being around their peers (especially if they have experienced bullying or being picked on), or for a variety of other reasons.

Emotions are often difficult for children to process and they may not know exactly how they are feeling. Often children, show their emotions in a way that adults would not typically express a particular emotion. For example, it is not uncommon for children to become upset and have a “tantrum” because they are tired. While an adult would not typically act that way because of fatigue, a child may, due to not knowing how else to express their tiredness.

With that said, it is important for parents to be mindful of how anxiety may manifest in children. Common symptoms of anxiety in children include nausea, easy startle response, tantrums or other ways of acting out, irritability, poor sleep, headaches, or clinginess. It is especially important for parents to recognize that acting out may be a child’s way of communicating that something is not right in their world and they are feeling nervous. Parents can help children by helping them name and understand what they are feeling, model confidence and practice calming down together, and preparing children for an anxiety-provoking situation by giving advanced notice that the event is coming up.

Transitioning back to school may be difficult for some children. When parents approach the situation with knowledge and patience, they will be better equipped to help their children. If you are noticing some of these signs of anxiety in your children, be sure to communicate what you are seeing with the child’s teacher and consider seeking help from the school counselor or outside counseling services.