Just like for adults, it’s normal for children to feel anxious or worried from time to time. Common childhood experiences like preparing to start a new school year, studying for a big test, and moving to a new neighborhood are all events that can trigger some level of anxiety.
Anxiety that occurs occasionally and in response to life events isn’t a big cause for concern, but sometimes, anxiety becomes chronic and starts to negatively impact a child’s thoughts, behavior, and well-being. It’s important to know the signs of anxiety so that you can get your child the help and support that they need.
As a parent or caregiver, what are some signs that a child is struggling with anxiety and needs help? Here are some things to look out for:
Feelings of fear and worry are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety. A child with anxiety will sometimes worry about things that are far in the future or unlikely to happen. For example, an anxious child might worry about starting college when they’re only in 9th grade, or worry that the house will catch on fire in the middle of the night.
It’s common for kids to experience physical symptoms of their anxiety. This can include things like stomach aches, diarrhea, nausea, or even just going to the bathroom a lot. If your child often complains that their stomach hurts, this can be a sign of anxiety.
Kids with anxiety can sometimes have extreme emotions, from sadness and crying to anger and irritability. If you notice that a child has extreme outbursts or drastic changes in emotions, this might indicate that they have anxiety.
It’s very common for people with anxiety to experience disruptions in their sleeping patterns, whether they’re a kid or an adult. Children with anxiety might have a hard time falling asleep at night, or might have difficulty staying asleep during the night. They might also appear tired or sleepy during the day.
If a child is restless, uneasy, or has trouble sitting still, there can be a few possible reasons. Children with anxiety are often restless and might report feeling “on edge.” You might also notice that your child gets up and moves around a lot. Restlessness can also be a sign of other conditions, like ADHD, so if you notice that your child is often restless, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor or mental health professional.
When a child’s mind is filled with worry, it can make it hard for them to concentrate. This can sometimes impact a child’s school performance. As with restlessness, difficulty focusing can also be a sign of ADHD.
If you recognize these signs of anxiety in your child, the best thing to do is to speak to your child’s doctor about your concerns. You can also reach out to a licensed mental health practitioner for support.