Just like adults, children can experience anxiety. The pressure to succeed in school and sports can begin at an early age, even before children understand what these stressful feelings are. When children begin experiencing abnormal amounts of anxiety, parents often notice them beginning to isolate themselves, acting out in class or social situations, chewing their fingernails, picking at their skin or pulling their hair out. Children suffering from anxiety often feel incapable of completing normal, everyday tasks that their peers easily complete, such as putting away and organizing toys in their bedroom or classroom. This anxiety is often triggered by simply being told to complete a task that a teacher or parent may view as reasonable; however, it may cause overwhelming emotions for the child because they feel unconfident in their ability to complete it.
There are many ways parents can help their children calm down when experiencing anxiety, and help prevent the anxiety from elevating. If parents begin noticing anxious feelings or behavior in their child, parents should try talking to their child about what may be causing their anxiety; also, be sure to reassure them that they are safe and that you can work through these feelings together. Pick a physical activity you can do together outside. where your child can relieve some of their feelings with exercise. The more support a child has, the easier it is to help them with their anxiety. Children may be reluctant to ask for help or talk about their feelings, which is why it’s important to start the conversation. Parents are also encouraged to discuss their child’s condition with their teachers and any other caregivers that interact with them and can help.
When a child’s anxiety becomes debilitating and begins interfering with everyday activities, parents should seek advice and evaluation from a specialist. If their condition has developed into an actual anxiety disorder, the child would benefit from a referral to a therapist or related behavioral health specialist. Here in the community, parents can reach out to Cone Health’s behavioral health services, as they have an exceptional team of behavioral health professionals who specialize in child and adolescent mental health.
Mack Whitsett is the Assistant Director of child and adolescent behavioral health at the Cone Health Behavioral Health hospital. Mack received his Bachelor of Arts in psychology and his Bachelor of Science in nursing from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2007 and 2009, respectively.