Childhood anxiety is on the rise in recent years. Many parents feel helpless as they watch their child suffer with this often debilitating disorder. Several of our children struggle with anxiety and one has been officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
As a parent, it is so hard to feel helpless. That is one of the reasons that I wanted to share what I have learned and what has helped us.
What is childhood anxiety?
The term “childhood anxiety” can be used to cover a range of diagnoses including mild anxiety, separation anxiety, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, and selective mutism. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are closely related to anxiety disorders.
Childhood anxiety often comes as a secondary diagnosis to children who have such conditions as early childhood trauma, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), reactive attachment disorder (RAD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, or other diagnoses.
While some level of anxiety is normal for all children, it can develop into something beyond the usual worries and fears.
As a parent, it can be difficult to tell the difference between normal childhood worries and an anxiety disorder. Reading some of the signs and symptoms of childhood anxiety may help you determine if you should seek professional help or a diagnosis for your child. That can be a powerful first step towards your child learning coping strategies.
Coping Strategies for Childhood Anxiety:
By far the most effective strategy for our daughter who has an anxiety diagnosis is her Calm Down Kit. It includes relaxation prompts which I’ve used to teach her calm down strategies and help her practise them. Practising them during times of calm is best.
This year, I made her a Christmas Calm Down Kit. She loved the themed calm down cards and activities. The holidays can be a time of higher anxiety for many kids.
There are many simple activities that can be extremely effective at helping kids cope with their anxiety. These are our favourite Calm Down Activities for Kids.
Learning to concentrate on their breath is another way that kids can help themselves remain calm or calm down when their anxiety rises. These 3 Calm Down Breathing Techniques are easy to teach children. They can be used anywhere and are very efficient.
Anxiety and the Fight, Flight or Freeze Response:
Anxiety can be one of the triggers for a child to go into fight, flight or freeze or mode. Once a child is in this state, they cannot access the higher functioning parts of their brain. It is important to help them to get out of that state.
Calming Your Child’s Fight, Flight or Freeze Response enables them to get back into a state of regulation.
Childhood Trauma and Anxiety:
Early childhood trauma can trigger problems with anxiety. This anxiety can present at any time during childhood or even into adulthood. In this case, treating the anxiety usually means treating the underlying trauma. This can be done through talk therapy, group sessions, art therapy, or EMDR.
Childhood Anxiety Solutions:
With childhood anxiety, while calm down techniques and coping skills can help the everyday, there are other situations where more specific interventions or techniques may be necessary.
Growth mindset has been shown to help provide a buffer between stressful life events and and psychological distress. It is therefore important to offer children the chance to make growth mindset a part of their education both at home and at school.
Growth Mindset Challenge KitBig Life JournalGrowth Mindset Printables
Sometimes it’s situations that many people think of as everyday that can create potential triggers. Here are some tips for Navigating the Store with a Child with Anxiety Issues. Outings can be very stressful for some children.
Birthdays and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas can also be times that increase stress. For many children, meltdowns and behaviour issues become more frequent during these times as they struggle to cope. It is even more important to put in place additional help for them. Here is a guide to Surviving the Holidays with a Child with Anxiety.
Being away from familiar routine and familiar surroundings is another potentially difficult situation for kids with anxiety. These tips for Traveling with a Child with Anxiety will help you plan for smoother vacations.
Childhood Anxiety Resources:
This book list has been very helpful for parents. Reading books with your child on this topic helps them to understand that these feelings are normal. It helps them to know that they are not alone. Check out these Great Books for Kids Who Worry.
7 Ways for Teachers to Help Students Who Struggle with Anxiety
Join me for a free 5 part email series, Little Hearts, Big Worries offering resources and hope for parents.