We have covered anxiety in children with autism, but today we’re going to talk about the types of anxiety in children. Stress affects children in similar ways as adults. And anxiety is no different though it may manifest differently in children.
As a child, I had terrible separation anxiety- especially on the first few days of school or summer camp. I wasn’t a shy child but I was just a child that was very much attached to my mom. Squeaker will, at times, show signs of separation anxiety but so far it isn’t too bad. But that’s just one of the types of anxiety in children.
Let’s look at a few more.
What does anxiety look like in children?
Children’s anxiety symptoms are typical of any anxiety syndrome. They feel their heart is racing and their head is spinning. Often children have stomach aches and a lump in their throat.
Children react to these symptoms in different ways. The younger they are, the more difficult it is to express their feelings and all they can do is cry. As they grow older, they throw tantrums, make excuses to avoid the stressor and often go into the stage of silent mutism.
Anxiety is a problem that may easily affect attention because a child can be preoccupied with internal thoughts or worries. As a consequence, he or she may appear to be zoning out.
An important question to consider is whether your child is equally distracted when he or she is relaxed. If not, situational factors may be triggering anxiety and inattention. Sometimes children who do not know how to handle a worrisome situation, or who have difficulty expressing their feelings, “clam up.”
Don’t you have a harder time concentrating on work if you’re nervous or worried about a personal situation? It can be much more difficult for a child to articulate his or her worries.
A concern that seems trivial to adults can also cause great anxiety for a child, as well.
For example, a preschool boy was very worried in school until it was discovered that he was having trouble handling his buckles and snaps at the bathroom break but was afraid to ask for help; a 7th grade girl couldn’t focus in her Language Arts class because she was seated next to a girl who had mocked her in gym.
4 Common Types of Anxiety In Children:
One of the earliest types of children’s anxiety is separation anxiety. This is seen in children between the ages of 18 months to three years. These children are often seen clinging to their mothers and have a great problem sleeping in their own rooms. Parents should expect a tussle when the child reaches school going age and should tackle the problem before that stage arrives.
Social anxiety disorders affect children in pre-school and grade school. It is a separation anxiety of a sort, where children refuse to go to school in fear of the social interactions. Often this children’s anxiety is more focused, as when the child is afraid of recess, the bus or the cafeteria. Proper evaluation should be done before any interventions, as often there is a specific teacher or class bully which is the root of the anxiety.
General anxiety disorders involve various aspects of the child’s life. This disorder peaks at the ages of seven to eleven years. It is seen as excessive worrying about some thing which may seem trivial to others. Children are often pre-occupied with their looks, sports, punctuality, cleanliness etc.
Test anxiety is when a student becomes so nervous about taking an examination that he can no longer perform well. This is actually a type of performance anxiety that prevents a student from reading and writing the right answers to a test. Sometimes, a little anxiety can serve as a motivation for a student to prepare and study harder for an upcoming examination. But if it already creates a paralyzing effect and disrupts daily routine, it may already be a case that must be referred to the academic supervisor or to the school psychologist.
How do our children get test anxiety in the first place?
Among the most common reasons for getting “school stress” is the student’s lack of discipline and preparation. Knowing that insufficient or no preparation was made to satisfactorily hurdle an examination, a student would naturally feel nervous about taking the test.
Another cause of test anxiety is the inappropriate content or level of difficulty of a test. Using the principles of learning, a teacher cannot force a student to learn a specific body of knowledge or learning content that is usually reserved for higher academic levels. The frustration and difficulty of learning a specific lesson may end up discouraging the student.
Sometimes, the high expectations of parents can also lead to stress in children. Being young, children also need to play and have fun. An exaggerated emphasis on academics may leave your child feeling left out of games other children play.
Too much study may also drive children to eventually disdain the tough of going to school and taking exams.
Phobias and Fears
Specific phobias may affect children of all age. Almost all children are afraid of something or the other when they are young, but any phobia which lasts for more than six months and affects the child’s daily routine should be given utmost importance.
There are several ways to treat anxiety in children, ranging from cognitive behavior therapy to medication. However, medication should be the last resort when it comes to treating anxiety. Try other methods such as therapy, dietary adjustments, or other methods before considering medication.
How to Help Kids with Anxiety
So what can parents do to help their children cope with test anxiety?
- First, parents should set regular study periods so that their children do not “cram” for the exams.
- Second, parents must monitor the test results without nagging their children about the scores. The act of questioning them about how well they did in the exam may only cause more test anxiety.
- Third, it is best for parents to regularly meet with teachers to find out the real score on how their children perform in school.
Start out small.
Let them play in the living room as you go to the next room (room needs to be in eye view) to do a certain task as folding clothes. Make sure you are keeping eye contact with them and reassuring that mom is right here. Speak in positive, upbeat words. The first time may not work, but just keep repeating yourself and do it over and over until they are fine with you being in the next room.
Stretch the time being gone.
When dad or another caregiver comes home, go and take a shower or soak in a nice bubble bath. Reassure the child you will be back. Never sneak away from the child as this will leave a bad coping skill with her and think you are never coming back.
Give it 15 or 20 minutes and show your presence to the baby.
Hug her and let her know you missed her, but will always return when mommy goes. After you do this a few times and she gets used to the idea of you being gone for that short amount of time, try going to the store for a longer period of time. You can continue to stretch each trip until you feel comfortable with the time you are being gone, for example if you are trying to build up to a night out of town with your significant other.
By taking things slowing, it will help you and your child overcome toddler separation anxiety with much less tears, heartbreak and stress.
And if you’re need of more resources and strategies, I would highly recommend Calming an Anxious Child and Calm the Chaos: Parenting an Anxious Child.
Both courses are by the amazing Dayna of Lemon Lime Adventures. Dayna is a Down to Earth, National Board Certified Educator Turned SAHM. With a Child with Anxiety of Her own, She truly understands what you are going through. You can start by reading her 10 Tips Every Parent of an Anxious Child should know, and then go check out her courses.
Another option to try, if your child is technology inclined, is to try apps for kids with anxiety.
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