Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences at some point. In some situations, anxiety can be helpful; it keeps us alert, protects us from danger and helps us notice problems around us. But for some kids and teens, that sense of anxiety grows too strong or too frequent and can get in the way of their normal activities.
One in four adolescents have mild to moderate anxiety, making it the most common mental health disorder among young people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is more common among girls, often overlaps with depression and can be seen even in young children. Because it can look different in each person and may or may not be triggered by a specific event or setting, it can be difficult for parents to recognize at first.
Whatever the symptoms, anxiety can really interrupt day-to-day life for both your child and you. Knowing the symptoms and learning some coping skills can support you in how to help your child with anxiety.
Common symptoms of adolescent anxiety can include:
- Feeling overly worried, nervous or afraid
- Sleep problems
- Muscle tension
- Avoiding certain situations
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased heartrate
- Upset stomach
- Becoming easily tired
Seven tips to help you manage your child’s anxiety:
Help kids recognize their anxiety
Children and teens often don’t know they are anxious. Help them learn how their body responds to feeling worried or fearful; talk through their emotional and physical feelings with them so they can better identify it when it happens again.
Listen and show support
Encourage your child to open up about any fears and worries they have. Even if their fears seem irrational or exaggerated, let them know you care and think that what they feel is important.
Stick to a routine
Schedules and routines create a sense of structure, security and comfort. Try to make things seem normal for your child, even though they may not be.
Praise small accomplishments
Notice when your child follows through with trying something new or approaching something that makes them nervous. Tell them how much you admire them for trying and that trying is key regardless of the outcome.
Notice your own reactions
Pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings during stressful times. Try to stay calm and positive when your child is anxious.
Find treatment for your child
If worry is getting in the way of normal, daily activities, your child may benefit from therapy, counseling or medication. Talk with your doctor to decide what will work best for your family. If you’re having a hard time with your child’s anxiety, it may also help you to seek therapy or counseling, as well.
If your child expresses thoughts about wanting to harm themselves or is saying unsafe things, call 911 or bring them to the nearest Emergency Department.
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