Work and education and running a home and caring for children can cause any parent anxiety! However, it’s important to remember that your children, too, may experience anxiety that should be addressed. In young children it can be more difficult to recognize the signs of anxiety—here are a few to pay attention to so that you can help your child’s mental and emotional health stay positive.
If your child is acting out in class, is ignoring your instruction, is lashing out to even friends and family, or is demonstrating any kind of abnormal and frustrating behavior, pause before you call it a bout of disrespect. This may be your child’s way of saying that they are frustrated, that they feel unheard or unseen, that they are nervous about something in their lives and don’t know how to express that. Bad behavior demands attention. According to Gozen, if your child is demanding attention, take a moment to give it to them in a productive way, getting to the root of the issue and discussing solutions or ways you can help them feel supported. This is a much kinder and more helpful strategy than disregarding their behavior and waiting until it dies down or goes away!
Habits That Don’t Go Away
When humans feel nervous, anxious or stressed, they often find natural coping mechanisms that bring them some kind of comfort and security or that ground them, giving them something to feel in control over. Unfortunately, sometimes these coping mechanisms turn into unhealthy habits that are not only unproductive, but unhealthy. For example, according to Showtime Smiles, some habits like thumb sucking can lead to an overbite. Pay attention to the little things your child does when confronted with a fearful or stressful situation—do they immediately go to take a nap, do they quickly become irritable and snappy, do they look for something to break down or scratch or feel? Each of these can be an indicator of an anxious mind!
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, another common signal of anxiety is constant worry over normal things in everyday life. If your child questions if the bus will come to pick them up from school or that their shoes will come untied or that they’ll be late to practice by even a minute, this shows an inability to rationalize or trust and a lack of confidence that is manifesting through anxiety. It may seem sweet, but it is not normal and not healthy for children’s stress levels to be triggered by such small and mundane issues. As anxiety spirals out of control, it can lead to attempts to take control of things, including eating disorders, isolating, and other dangerous behaviors. Take the time to reassure and remind your child of past experiences and their ability to problem solve!
Recognizing these symptoms in your child is the first step to helping them through a very difficult mental struggle. Be patient and be aware, and take the necessary measures to help them feel more confident and in control of their lives.
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