Anxiety is not just a grown-up's condition. It can occur in children too and affect them adversely. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.4% of children aged three to 17 years (approximately 50.8 lakhs) were diagnosed with anxiety in 2016-2019, whereas 4.4% of children aged three to 17 years (approximately 20.7 lakhs) were diagnosed with depression during the same period. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science found that there is a significant burden of anxiety disorders among adolescents in India.
Speaking with Only My Health, Dr Himani Narula, Developmental Behavioural Paediatrician and Adolescent Mental Health Expert & Co-founder and Director Continua Kids (Child Developmental Center), Faridabad, explains some of the common triggers of anxiety in kids and shares ways to ease them.
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Common Anxiety Triggers For Kids
Here are some of the common causes of anxiety in children, according to Dr Narula.
- Separation anxiety, which is caused by separation from parents or caregivers
- Fear of the unknown
- Being raised in a dysfunctional family or in an environment with marital discord amongst parents
- Traumatic events such as natural disasters, accidents, or violence
- Suffering from phobias, such as fear of animals, insects, or the dark
- Illness or health concerns about their own health or the health of their family members
- The pressure to be perfect; anxiety related to their performance and expectations
Dr Narula said, “It's important to remember that each child is unique and may experience anxiety triggers differently. Parents, caregivers, and teachers should be aware of these triggers and provide support and resources to help children manage their anxiety."
Signs Parents Should Watch Out For
According to Dr Narula, children with anxiety may have excessive worries or fears about everyday situations, such as going to school or being away from their parents. They may try to avoid situations that make them anxious, such as socialising with peers or participating in activities outside of their comfort zone. That said, here are some of the signs parents should watch out for:
- Physical symptoms include stomach aches, headaches, nausea, sweating, and trembling
- Behavioural signs include restlessness, being fidgety, or irritable, or they may have difficulty focusing or completing tasks
- Sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or to have nightmares
- Self-doubts and low self-esteem
The doctor recommends taking professional help if children showcase these signs.
Also Read: Autism & Anxiety: Expert Weighs In Understanding & Treating Co-occurring Conditions
At-Home Activities That Can Help Kids With Anxiety
Dr Narula shared a list of easy at-home activities that can help your child manage their anxiety. These include:
- Simple mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing, body scans, and visualisation
- Physical activities, such as playing outside, going for a walk, or doing yoga
- Art activities, such as drawing, painting, or colouring
- Encourage kids to keep a journal where they can write down their thoughts and feelings
- Play calming music or encourage your child to listen to their favourite music
- Sensory activities such as playing with playdough, kinetic sand, or sensory bins
According to the doctor, it is important to create a supportive and positive environment for children. In addition, parents must learn to validate their children’s feelings.