A pounding heart, dizziness, excessive sweating, phobias that keep you isolated rather than plugged in socially—these are all indicators of an anxiety disorder. While many adults experience anxiety, these feelings are familiar to many kids as well—nearly 6 million, in fact. With children as young as 3 and as old as 17 being diagnosed with anxiety every year in the United States, the condition is both common and manageable.
While anxiety is no stranger to American children, it’s particularly distressing for a parent to see these symptoms manifest in a child. Many parents feel compelled to understand childhood anxiety, its root causes, and how to teach their kids to cope with it.
Aside from some of the symptoms previously mentioned, what other scenarios and manifestations of anxiety indicate that your child has a diagnosable anxiety disorder? Typically, when your child’s daily life (school, sports, family time, sleep, eating, etc..) is disrupted by anxiety symptoms, it’s safe to assume that a mental health disorder rooted in social anxiety, general anxiety, phobia-induced anxiety, separation anxiety, or a panic disorder may be at play.
Here are some concrete examples of disorder-level disruptions:
- A child is unable to separate from their parents, caretakers, or siblings even for a short amount of time
- Being unable to tolerate or respond to situations where there may be a phobia element present (bugs, animals, the doctor’s office, certain types of food, etc..). This could result in a meltdown, a tantrum, fainting, or physically running away
- Being unwilling to attend school and/or other social functions for fear of having to interact with people or peers
- Being consumed with thoughts of what could happen in the future to the point of being unable to concentrate, study, or hold a conversation for a sustained amount of time
- Randomly occurring events involving sudden sweating fits, rapid uncontrolled breathing, rapid heart rate, and/or extreme dizziness that can happen at any time in any environment with no perceivable trigger
While these examples may sound extreme, you can look for more subtle signs as well. Anxiety disorders in children can manifest as frequent headaches, irregular sleeping patterns, nightmares or night terrors, irregular bowel movements, and stomach pain.
Easy-To-Implement Coping Techniques For Anxious Kids
Rest assured that Miramont is here for you when it comes to supporting your child in controlling anxiety. In addition to offering in-person treatment for children and teens, we love to equip our clients with tools that they can use outside of our facilities in their day-to-day lives.
- The 3-3-3 Technique For Anxious Children
Many of our young ones feel overwhelmed when they get stuck in a loop of scary or overwhelming thoughts. To help your child cut the loop, encourage them to think of 3 things they can see in the room, 3 things they can hear within the room or outside, and 3 body parts.
Feel free to vary the order in which you ask for these nine elements. For example, say “one thing in the room,” wait for their response, and then ask for one thing they can hear, and then proceed to have them name a body part. Repeat this cycle three times. It’s just as effective to ask for three things from each group in chunks. You can also vary this technique by adding a big deep breath after each element is named.
- Exposure Therapy Within Reason
There will be some phobias that your child cannot be exposed to—monsters, death, and certain diseases are just a few. However, let’s say your child can’t stomach the idea of heights, dogs, or certain foods. Start by introducing them to situations where these elements safely appear.
If your child fears heights, you may encourage them to go with you to a safe and secure rooftop restaurant where they can order anything they want. When it comes to dogs, you may have a friend with a well-trained small dog that can show your child there’s no danger. When it comes to food, try to share a meal where the food is present on the table but doesn’t have to be eaten.
- Cognition: Using That Noggin
Sometimes older children find using their reason or intellect can be a self-soothing technique. Take the example of a child who is severely distressed when they’re sick or home from school with the flu. It can be helpful to teach them to think that while uncomfortable, the virus is temporary. Introduce the idea of “riding it out” if possible and applicable to their age.
Get Support For Anxious Kids With Miramont Behavioral Health
While our facility is physically available to all clients near Middleton or Waukesha, WI, you can reach us online or by phone when you contact us today. We’re here to support you and your family as you learn to cope with and ultimately control anxiety. In the meantime, we advise sharing this article with the support system involved with your child’s mental health and wellness. Nurturing your community is an important and effective way to help your child manage their anxiety disorder.