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Recognizing Anxiety in Children And How To Help

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I met with a group of moms the other day, because, apparently that is what I do now. For years I didn’t know one person that procreated and now all of the sudden my world has narrowed to people my son can play nicely with and people who understand when I need to cancel for the umpteenth time because of a fever/meltdown/need for rest.

When you meet with a group of moms and you are in thick of new parenthood, there is a lot to talk about. What brand of diapers are you buying? How are you coping with public tantrums? How are you having a moment to yourself every day where a little person isn’t watching you? (Short answer to that last one: it’s just not going to happen for a while.)

Generally, these questions are trivial, and they get answered quickly before the mom is stuck with another minor conundrum (that may feel like a major one in the meantime). However, from time to time, there is a real issue. Something that is way beyond our expertise.

Anxiety in children can pop up and pass, but with some children it can become chronic. As parents and even as people who know children, it is important to learn the signs of anxiety in children. It can be broken up into three categories: physical, behavioral and emotional.

The physical symptoms can vary from frequent stomachaches and headaches to constantly tense muscles to being afraid to use the bathroom anywhere but home. The behavioral symptoms may present as refusing to go to school, frequent “what if” questions, avoiding social situations and having meltdowns and tantrums. Finally, emotional symptoms can be panic attacks, frequent crying and even nightmares. (1)

You know your child best and you know if their behavior is setting up difficult emotions and circumstances as their “normal.”

When a mom in my group discussed her anxious child, the group got pretty quiet because we were at a loss. This was beyond our trivial and we frankly had no idea how to “fix” it. Even though many women hate a man’s tendency to need to fix emotions and challenging circumstances, it is hard to prevent ourselves from doing the same when it comes to our children.

1.     Wright, Lexi Walters. Signs of Anxiety In Young Kids.Understood.org. https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/managing-feelings/stress-anxiety/signs-your-young-child-might-be-struggling-with-anxiety Retrieved 19 September 2019.

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2.    Goldstein, Clark. How To Cope With An Anxious Child. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-and-not-do-when-children-are-anxious/ Retrieved 19 September 2019.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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