Have you ever felt a stomach ache before a test for which you are not prepared? Or had sweaty palms before delivering a presentation you are not too confident about? The fear or nervousness before doing something, the jittery feeling that makes you stress out is called anxiety. It does not feel nice at all.
In children, anxiety can manifest itself in various forms in terms of behavior, emotions, thought and physical reactions. A common example is a 3-4 year old child may panic and become anxious when it loses the sight of its parents. If not catered to at the earliest, anxiety may hinder the child from being involved in basic activities like doing homework or going to school or even sleeping and eating.
While there are many types of anxieties in children, the 3 common types along with their symptoms are:
- Generalized anxiety: It is the general worrying about small things like peers, school, self-image, family etc. The symptoms show up as the child being constantly fatigued, complaining of headaches, unable to sleep, irritable, feeling shame, anger and fear often. It may begin to miss school, give tantrums and excuses, become cranky and less attentive.
- Social anxiety: Children have a fear of performance on stage or a group of unknown individuals. The symptoms include sweating, stomach aches, anticipation of failure, embarrassment, poor eye contact etc. They avoid situations where they have to be on stage or ask their parents to be present constantly.
- Separation anxiety: The feeling of being worried and nervous when small kids are separated from their parents. Symptoms include crying in such situations, stomach ache, helplessness. They may refuse to go to places alone like schools, throw tantrums, have nightmares and have increased dependence on parents.
What can you do as a parent?
- Be accepting of the child’s anxiety and don’t avoid situations. The goal is to make the child learn to deal with the anxiety if its elimination is not possible.
- Make the child feel confident about the outcomes of the situations they are anxious about. Instill positivity in them through talking.
- Teach them ways to deal with it. Deep breathing, reverse counting, drinking water, using stress balls, talks in mind etc. may be the techniques.
- If things are worse, never shy away from seeking medical help.
Be an understanding parent!