Anxiety can be a normal part of growing up. Most children experience worries or fears at some point in their lives, which sometimes may even be beneficial in fostering motivation. The key here is to know when your child’s anxious feelings are normal and occasional and when they are unhealthy and damaging. It’s understandable that a parent would worry about their child’s emotions, not knowing how and when to tell that they need help, so here are some points that can guide your decision.
When should you seek professional help for your children’s anxiety?
1. When symptoms are persistent
Symptoms of anxiety in children may look like this:
- Difficulty in concentrating or focusing in school or at home.
- Sudden change in behavior: acting out.
- Not sleeping or eating properly.
- Quickly getting irritable, angry, or out of control.
- Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts that seem irrational.
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, or stomachaches that are vague in their cause.
- Avoiding certain situations, people, or activities that once brought them joy.
- The need of excessive reassurance from parents: asking the same questions repeatedly.
- Anxiety around situations that might cause humiliation: speaking in front of the class, ordering food, or going to school.
These symptoms must be persistent, lasting for two or more weeks. That’s when you know if your child’s anxiety is a normal part of their development process, happening occasionally and lasting for only a couple of hours or days and when they are persistent and seem long-lasting.
2. When symptoms are affecting performance
If your child’s anxious symptoms are negatively affecting a domain in their lives, it might be a sign to seek help. In school contexts, the child might have difficulty going to school, struggle to focus in online classes, or can’t seem to find the motivation to study. This in turn, affects how they perform in school and might even have an effect at home with their parents or siblings, showing difficulty in concentrating and performing to their highest ability.
3. Avoidance in previously enjoyed activities, places, or people
An anxious child might start communicating excessive fears they might be experiencing by showing avoidance behavior towards activities, people, or places they previously enjoyed once. A child might already have social anxiety or show anxious feelings when going to school for example, which can look something like this:
- Suffering from meltdowns on the school’s bus
- Gasping for air and crying out loud when arriving to school
- Felling like he/she physically can’t go to school
A child experiencing anxiety might also have social anxiety towards their teachers at school, which can result in avoiding to attend classes where the teacher is present. In this scenario, parents can interfere by setting a meeting (online or on-campus) with their child’s teacher to discuss how the child might be feeling, how to deal with their anxious symptoms, and agree upon a shared strategy for the child’s best interest.
A Word from O7therapy
Just as anxiety symptoms vary, so do treatment options. If your child’s anxious feelings/ symptoms seem persistent, impacts their daily life activities and performance, and shows avoidance behavior to once enjoyed situations, it might be best to seek out professional help. A child psychologist or school counselor might be of benefit in dealing with your anxious child.