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  • Djana Korajac

Recognizing Anxiety in Children

Child with anxiety

Emotions are inevitable! Every child has felt big emotions at some point in their life, some children feel these big emotions more frequently than other children. Emotions like sadness, fear, worry, and hopelessness can show up in children of all ages, just like in adults. Knowing the signs of anxiety in children can help us learn how to support them by providing tools that help them cope with these big emotions.


What might a child feel anxious about?

-Being away from a parent or guardian 

-Starting a new school year

-A big test coming up

-Bullies

-Large crowds

-Speaking in front of their whole class

-Being worried about what the future holds 

-Becoming seriously ill or injured

-The death of a loved one

-Parents who fight or argue

-and many other causes


Symptoms to look out for:

-Restlessness (difficulty relaxing)

-Difficulty focusing

-Refusing to leave a guardians side

-Using the bathroom often

-Frequent stomach aches

-Difficulty sleeping or waking up from nightmares

-Crying, outbursts of anger, difficulty breathing, heart pounding

-Etc.


How to Help:

-Visit a healthcare provider, such as your child’s primary care physician or a mental health professional for an evaluation. They may offer various treatment plans depending on the needs of the child. The family and healthcare provider can work together to decide the best course of treatment for the child. Sometimes, the healthcare provider may suggest talk therapy, medication, or both as part of the treatment plan.

-Mental health therapy

-This will provide the child a space to explore their emotions and find tools to help regulate their nervous system when feelings of anxiety increase.

-Reach out to the child’s school about your concerns.

-The school may have resources readily available to them to help the child learn 

emotion regulation skills with peers in a fun and interactive way.

-Implement coping skills into their daily routine. Get the whole family involved!

-Breathing exercises: blowing bubbles encourages children to take deep breaths, which helps them regulate their nervous system

-Wall push: putting both hands on the wall and pushing for 5-10 seconds allows the child’s body to release some of those feelings of anxiety

-Try a physical activity: stretching, jumping jacks, monkey bars, etc.

-Count backwards from 10

-5 Senses Grounding Technique: state 5 things you can see, 4 things they can touch, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, 1 thing they can taste

-Muscle relaxation techniques

-Coloring, drawing, painting

-Close your eyes and imagine you are at a warm, calm place

-Play music and dance


There are many ways to help a child cope with anxiety. Listening to them and allowing them space to feel these emotions is a crucial part of learning that it is okay to experience tough emotions. Allowing space for this reduces the shame or embarrassment they may feel for having an outburst. Many people, including adults, are never taught healthy ways to cope with significant life stressors, but this can change if we provide children with healthy tools early on in their lives. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to helping your child manage their anxiety or big emotions.

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