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The Different Sides of Anxiety

Last month's blog was about self-care, and I shared a few tips on the physical and mental ways of dealing with anxiety in adults, especially relating to parents as role models for their kids. Today, I would like to explore some of the warning signs that might indicate that your child's anxiety levels are too high and your intervention might be required. Firstly, I don’t want to scare anyone. Worry and manageable levels of anxiety are normal: worry is necessary and is a part of our survival mechanism; we all need to worry about things from time to time. Worrying is just as natural for children as it is for adults.

Worry and anxiety become problems for a child when they get in the way of daily life, interfering with things they need or want to do. And here, it is important to remember that, just like adults, each child is different. Children have different temperaments, different personality traits, life experiences and present circumstances to navigate. Plus, we each parent differently too, so the markers below are intended as general pointers to keep in mind and look out for.

1. Physical signs of anxiety

  • Stomach and headache complaints. Nausea and/or diarrhoea that seem to occur regularly without warning or obvious underlying reason

  • Change in appetite (eating much less or much more than usual)

  • Development of unusual repetitive movements, fidgeting, restlessness, “running up the walls”

  • Complaints that they feel that their heart is beating too loud or too fast (without any underlying medical reasons)

  • Sleeping issues. Having a harder time than usual going to bed, falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up in the morning

  • Bedwetting out of the blue

  • Noticeably tense muscles or excessive sweating

2. Emotional signs

  • Loss of concentration and focus

  • Passive attitude and indifference towards things that usually excite them

  • Crying for no apparent reason

  • Appearing to be afraid or worried about things that never used to affect them before

  • Negative outlook on things that are about to happen

3. Behavioural signs

  • Unusual outbursts of anger or fear

  • ‘Meltdowns’ and tantrums

  • Avoidance of things they used to enjoy doing with friends and family

  • Avoidance of anything new and unknown

  • Fear of making mistakes

How To Handle Anxiety in Kids

So what to do? Well, understanding what’s causing the anxiety is the key to dealing with it. True good news is that children are very flexible and adaptive. They are often more than willing to adjust and adapt to everchanging circumstances. They just need a little help from us to help them do it. So if you can:

  • Be stable, broadcast confidence and optimism

  • Allow more time for warm, two-way communication

  • Stick to your routine

  • Pay attention to the above signs and address them one by one with acceptance

Yet, remember about the self-care that we talked about last month: if you are not able to look after yourself and feel that your resources bucket is depleted, it is ok to seek out external help.


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