Do you have an anxious child?
Childhood fears are a part of normal growing up. Fears of the dark, monsters under the bed, starting at a new daycare or school - all of these may be part of typical child development. Anxiety is also a signal to help all of us protect ourselves from situations that are dangerous- a warning signal about a lack of safety in your child’s world. Under normal circumstances, anxiety diminishes when a child’s sense of security and safety is restored—anxious thoughts and feelings subside.
When is your child's anxiety something you should be concerned about?
Anxiety is considered a disorder not based on what a child is worrying about, but rather how that worry is impacting a child's functioning. The content may be 'normal' but reach out for help for your child under the following circumstances:
- when your child is experiencing too much worry or suffering immensely over what may appear to be insignificant situations;
- when worry and avoidance become your child's automatic response to many situations;
- when your child feels continuously keyed up, or,
- when coaxing or reassurance is ineffective in helping your child through his or her anxious thoughts and feelings.
Under these circumstances, anxiety is not a signal that tells them to protect themselves but instead prevents them from fully participating in typical activities of daily life-school, friendships, and academic performance.
What to look for:
If your child is showing any of the following it may be time to seek help from a qualified professional:
- Anticipatory anxiety, worrying hours, days, weeks ahead
- Asking repetitive reassurance questions, "what if" concerns, inconsolable, won't respond to logical arguments
- Headaches, stomach aches, regularly too sick to go to school
- Disruptions of sleep with difficulty falling asleep, frequent nightmares, trouble sleeping alone
- Perfectionism, self-critical, very high standards that make nothing good enough
- Overly-responsible, people pleasing, an excessive concern that others are upset with him or her, unnecessary apologizing
- Easily distressed, or agitated when in a stressful situation
A CFIR child, adolescent and family psychologist can help you and your child to diminish unhealthy anxiety. A thorough assessment of your child will provide you and your child with valuable information about the sources of your child’s anxiety, and evidence-based psychological treatment will be employed to help your child deal with his or her anxiety symptoms.
(This post was originally written by Dr. Rebecca Moore C.Psych.)