Parents often ask “Is my child’s anxiety normal?” Because all children have worries from time to time this can be a difficult question to answer. In fact, Anxiety Disorders in children can go undetected by parents for quite some time. One in eight children experiences an anxiety disorder that necessitates treatment. Normal anxiety is often associated with a specific event. Perhaps the child has seen a scary movie, is concerned about a peer conflict, or is afraid that they have failed a test. When the child cannot control their worry, or their fears interfere with normal childhood activities, they need to be evaluated for an anxiety disorder. Typically “giving in” to the anxiety leads to an increasing spiral of anxiety and avoidant behavior.
Symptoms and behaviors that indicate anxiety may include restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. The child may exhibit behavioral difficulties such as school refusal, resistance to new activities, separation difficulties, difficulty playing alone, difficulty sleeping alone, or the emergence of specific fears.
Fortunately, psychological treatment (such as play therapy) of anxiety in children has been proven to be quite successful. Many children can benefit from psychotherapy and do not require medication, a significant concern for many parents. Simply educating parents and children about the nature of anxiety and then teaching ways to identify, assess, and change anxious thinking can help the parent and child immensely. Teaching a child to recognize the physiological symptoms of anxiety and to combat them with relaxation techniques is quite helpful. Children can easily learn how to use positive self-talk to deal with recurring worry and stress. Parents may also need to be educated on the best ways to aid their child with these anxiety disorders.
Self-Help Books for Children and Adolescents
- Sometimes I Get Sad (But Now I Know What Makes Me Happy)
- What to Do When You Dread Your Bed
- When I Feel Afraid
- My Medication Workbook
- Becoming a Superhero: A book for children who have experienced trauma
- Brain Bullies: Standing Up to Anxiety & Worry