New School Year, New Worries?
It’s normal for children to experience worries and fears that are typical for their age. We all worry at times. However, when a child’s fears and worries begin to interfere with their daily functioning, it is likely that they are experiencing anxiety. Yes, children can have anxiety. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common mental health struggles among children and teenagers. During this time of year, anxiety is especially prevalent in children, as they head back to school and trade the carefreeness of summer for more structure and responsibility. Being aware of childhood anxiety and what it can look like is important for early detection and treatment.
Parents and caregivers often ask how they might know if a child is experiencing anxiety. Here are some signs to look out for:
-Consistent worrying that will not go away and does not seem to match what they’re actually experiencing.
-Changes in appetite
-Physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, muscle aches, or increased heart rate
-Avoidance of certain situations or things that kids typically enjoy, such as playing with others or going to school
-Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork or other tasks
-Disruptive behavior, angry outbursts, or irritability, which may result from feeling overwhelmed by uncomfortable feelings.
-Clinginess, or difficulty separating from parents or caregivers
-Being too hard on themselves
**If you begin to notice your child exhibiting some of these signs and they remain persistent over time, it may be time to speak with one of our mental health professionals that specialize in working with children.
As previously mentioned, the start of the school year can be especially challenging for children with anxiety. Most kids will experience feelings of nervousness as they transition back to school with a new classroom and teacher. These feelings are typical and will likely go away once the school year gets going and kids adjust. However, for some children, these feelings may continue beyond the first few weeks of school. This is an indicator of anxiety. Children with anxiety will struggle with excessive worry about everyday things. During the school year, these may be things like academic performance, being away from parents and caregivers, or socializing with other students. Excessive worrying about school can begin to interfere with a child’s everyday functioning and well-being.
The best ways to support a child with anxiety during the school year are to talk about their feelings with them, listening with an empathetic ear and validating their concerns. Think about ways you might help them build their confidence, such as reminding them of their past successes in the face of scary feelings. Incorporating help from a mental health professional is also a proactive step to help stave off anxiety that can escalate if left untreated. Cognitive behavioral therapy and play therapy are effective ways for your child to learn how to cope with their anxiety in healthy ways. We offer both of these options at Miracles. If you feel like your child could benefit from these services once the school year is underway, give us a call at 704-664-1009 or contact us here.
Source(s): cdc.gov, childmind.org, health.harvard.edu, hopkinsmedicine.org