Anxiety is another word for worries, fears, being shy or frightened. Anxiety is a natural emotion that helps us survive. Everyone gets anxious but the degree of anxiety or one’s vulnerability to it can vary.
It’s normal for children to feel worried about a range of different things. Worry may need addressing in a more structured way when the worry starts to interfere with the regular things you do. e.g. going to school, going to friends, crying excessively, frequent arguments, eating problems, difficulties sleeping, ongoing illness. Approximately one in ten children have these types of problems.
Addressing anxiety in the early stages is a strong predictor of therapy success. Anxiety can grow very quickly and cause enormous distress in the home. If your child is exhibiting signs of anxiety, it is important to nip it in the bud.
The following warning signs can help you identify whether your child’s level of anxiety requires addressing. Please consider the following bearing in mind what is appropriate for your child’s stage of development:
- Difficulties sleeping
- Frequent nightmares
- Toileting problems
- Eating problems
- Decrease in school participation
- Drop in school grades
- Decrease in concentration
- Avoidance behavior e.g. refusing to go to places previously enjoyed such as school, activities, other people’s houses.
- Frequent illness complaints (especially if no physical cause can be determined by your doctor)
- Out of character behavior
- Easily agitated/distressed
- Seeking lots of reassurance
It is also important to consider whether there are any recent stressors in the child’s life such as moving house, moving schools, family separation or family illness. Just like adults, some children are better than others at managing life’s difficult situations when they emerge. Furthermore, children who come from families where there is a history of family anxiety are more vulnerable to anxiety disorders. These types of issues generally have better results when dealt with at the earliest possible stage.
Adults and children alike require the skills and resilience to tackle life’s problems. Working with both children and their parents is an essential part of the therapy process. Children who come to therapy have the wonderful benefit of acquiring important skills to carry throughout their life.