Anxieties and phobias in children

Kids and anxiety

Children do get anxious. They have their own set of worries, apprehensions and fears in life. Adults feel that they have the worldly burden on their shoulders while childhood is carefree and joyous. It’s not always so. Childhood ‘ought’ to be happy-go-lucky and relaxed. And that is what we have to strive for in our kids. Anxiety has been well studied unlike other childhood problems. Possibly the demands that parents place on their kids overwhelms them. At other times children sense the stress in the household. They know when there is friction between parents or in laws or grandparents. They are highly receptive and emotive. They have self-standards too besides the ones you set for them. All these can get quite overpowering for the little children who cannot cope with the burden thrust upon them.

How children are different

Anxiety is a lot worse in the younger age group because they don’t know how to actually express themselves. Sometimes children take cues from their environment and learn from erroneous sources that voicing feelings and confessing to fears is a sign of weakness. They may see their parents anxious and don’t want to add to the troubles. This is a self-defeating and negative consequence of anxiety, which then becomes pathological. In the early years as the brain is developing and neurotransmitters are taking shape to determine the child’s emotionality; such damage can be devastating.

Nervousness versus anxiety

Nervousness is a normal emotion. In adults as well as children, some fear maintains good vigilance and allows for putting in one’s best efforts. If children were to be lax about life they would not be able to make it to the bus stop on time, do their homework diligently, or prepare for their exams well enough. We ourselves try to instill competitiveness in children. We want them to excel and try to make them meticulous. Although good intentions, the message that gets across to the child may be distorted. They believe short of the best is not good enough. They get disillusioned by the seed of competition that we sow in their innocent minds. They now invest emotion in fearing failure more than seeking perfection for succeeding.

How children present

Some children with anxiety primarily show physical symptoms that lead parents to pediatric clinics and cue unnecessary tests and medication for treating physical conditions in the child (though these actually have psychological origins). It is important to be aware of the possible expression of anxiety symptoms in children so that we can pick them well in time, and give children the care they truly deserve. Kids with anxiety are often inattentive in class, school refusal is common and they have impaired social connectedness owing to inability to relate with others. Anxiety may present as low academic grades, lack of friendships, loneliness and on occasion even aggression owing to emotional illiteracy and incapacity in expressing.

Role of parents

If it is not treated appropriately, anxiety can have very drastic consequences on the child’s psychological and emotional development. Help is always available. Parents should always be willing to accept that and make a meaningful difference in the life of their children. They need to stand by their children and support them through their difficult times. Children observe their parents and gain strength from them. After all, parents are the biggest ‘superheroes, the strongest pillars of hope for their children.

There is always hope

At MINDFRAMES we believe that treating anxiety is a partnership between the parents, and the child. Anxiety in children is treatable condition and the child can become 100% all right. Medication (as per doctor’s advice) and behavior therapy program help. Behavior charts can be involved in the therapy procedure with children and daily records of the child’s behavior helps mark the events that are causing the child to become anxious. Relaxation training, cognitive restructuring and behavior therapy has been successfully used in children to rid them of anxiety and make them more confident human beings. Allowing children to be open about their fears and discussing them with their caregivers allows catharsis and enables them to face them with more confidence. When children suppress their fears, they worsen the anxiety and makes it more debilitating. help children to help themselves.

Anxiety physical signs

You need to keep a watchful eye.

  • Daily headache or body ache
  • Frequent stomach upset/ diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat food (even favorite)
  • Inability to sleep alone at night
  • Staying up and not getting sleep
  • Trembling of hands and sweating

Anxiety behavioral signs

Keep track of your child’s behavior.

  • Scared to go anywhere alone
  • Afraid that bad things will happen
  • Biting nails, chewing pens/pencils
  • Praying more often than before
  • Occasionally talking in their sleep
  • Tearful and startled easily

Anxiety school signs

Watch out for these everyday.

  • Crying while going to school
  • Stomachache every morning
  • Bus refusal wanting the car
  • Asking for parents in school
  • Careless mistakes in math
  • Not talking to other children
  • Dazed and inattentive in class

Frequently Asked Questions

My child’s anxiety is making me anxious! What can I do?
You need to be calm as your child is taking non verbal cues from you and this can worsen his or her anxiety. Children require expert evaluation. Behavior therapy, relaxation and cognitive rehearsal can help children overcome anxiety and make them confident.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do as a parent?
Children easily develop the idea that it’s not really OK to feel anxious. They start to hide their feelings rather than deal with them in a healthy way. Reassure your child that fear is not something to be ashamed of. Give your child the right to have these feelings, respect their emotions and allow them to express these in a healthy manner.