While every child is anxious at some point, the moments of anxiety tend to be short-lived and do not interfere with daily activities such as school, relationships or social interactions. Children who experience chronic anxiety issues may need professional help to overcome their fears. Two common types of anxiety seen in children are separation anxiety and social anxiety. It is important to parents to know the signs and symptoms of distress so that they can monitor behavior and get help if needed.
Separation anxiety is common, especially in young or shy children. Tearful and tantrum-filled partings are common in most young children and usually show up when a child reaches about a year old. I remember my children clinging to the hem of my skirt whenever we went somewhere new. It was always a chore to pull them off. Toddlers and preschoolers who are used to being home with Mom or Dad may exhibit separation anxiety when their routine changes. In time, the anxiety will pass as the child adjusts to the new schedule. Older children with separation anxiety may refuse to go to school, complain about having headaches or stomachaches when at school or are overly clingy when the bus rounds the corner. Parents should reassure and encourage anxious children when they encounter a new situation. Prolonged episodes of separation anxiety, beyond kindergarten may require professional assistance.
If your child has a difficult time coping in social situations or is uncomfortable interacting with peers, they may be suffering from social anxiety, or social phobia. Children who suffer from social anxiety think that they will make mistakes in front of others that will make them look bad or that they will be embarrassed. For some children, the anxiety may be so intense that it escalates into a panic attack. Children avoid social situations to keep from feeling uncomfortable. Parents of children, who exhibit a reluctance to be engaged in social situations, especially teens, may need to have their child evaluated by a professional so that they can provide adequate help. It is important to set a good example for your child from an early age. Shy parents should make an effort to speak to strangers in front of their children and demonstrate courteous behavior when around those that they do not know. We have to remember that our children see us as role models and will imitate what they see.
While it is possible that your child’s anxiety is just a phase that will pass, it is imperative to stay aware of anxieties that interfere with “normal” daily functioning. Severe anxiety problems in children are treatable, and early diagnosis helps with the success of the treatment. Depending on the nature and the severity of a child’s anxiety, treatment may involve any one or combination of the following; individual psychotherapy, medications, family therapy, consultation from the school and behavioral therapy. Having a close and open relationship with your children helps you to be aware of behavioral indicators of anxiety.
About the Author: Susan Patterson is a homeschool teacher and a freelance writer who is interested in the health and welfare of children. She writes for a number of health education sites and recently finished an article for Family Cord.