Everyone suffers from anxiety at some point or the other and it’s normal for your child to have off days or to struggle on occasion. It’s so common that it is estimated that one-in-six children experience the condition at some point. So, it is very important to look for signs that your child has anxiety.
For most, feeling anxious is something that comes and goes. The child worries about something at school or an upcoming event and then once the situation is resolved, the sensation also disappears.
Some children however endure anxiety as a part of everyday life. The situation that caused the anxiety might be over, but the feeling of fear and panic not only remains but intensifies for them.
I was always an anxious child (and grew into an anxious adult), the oldest Papalite – my son is also generally anxious (he does not at this time have a diagnosis of anxiety but shows some traits associated with the condition).
Dealing with the condition requires patience and understanding. As a parent, even when it’s frustrating, it is important to take a step back, identify why and work with your child in easing their concerns. If that doesn’t work and the problems get worse, of course talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible.
Naturally, this is not a conclusive list.
1. Unable to Sleep
Inability to sleep or to stay asleep is a common condition with children. It is also a very common anxiety symptom. If your child struggles to stay down for the night, regularly has bad dreams or night hysterics/panic attacks then this is a reason to consult a medical professional.
Sure, it could just be them being at ‘that age’ but it could also be a sign that your child has anxiety or another undiagnosed condition.
2. Always Worrying and Focusing on the Negative
Perhaps your child is worried that something will happen to you, or a pet or at school and he/she always assumes the worst-case scenario? Another way that you might see this reflected is if they actively avoid social situations they would clearly enjoy (usually out of a fear they haven’t articulated). This is a common trait of anxiety.
3. Constantly Clingy
Does your child refuse to leave your side? Get distressed when you leave them with people? Constantly seek cuddles, attention and closeness? A possible indicator that your child has anxiety!
4. Not Eating Properly
Not eating or massively overeating can be indicators that someone is struggling with anxious thoughts or emotions.
5. Unable Concentrate/Constantly Fidgety
As adults, when something plays on our mind it can be difficult to get our head into the task at hand.
This is no different for children.
Lack of focus, inability to stay still and self-comforting behavior (like rubbing an arm, stroking hair and such) can all be indicators of a restless mind. If this is a common occurrence, it’s surely worth considering the possibility that your child has anxiety.
6. Mood Swings and Meltdowns
Negative thoughts can come swiftly! It is possible to be playing happily one moment and then be overwhelmed by fear the next. What’s more is that children don’t always have the means to express what is bothering them. This can lead to tantrums, aggressive displays of emotions and full-on meltdowns.
7. Toilet Time Issues
Regular diarrhea and/or constipation without other symptoms are a common symptom of an anxious mind for adults and children alike.
8. Unexplainable Tummy Aches or Onsets of Illness
It’s not uncommon for a child who has anxiety to develop sudden, unexplainable stomach aches or to talk of feeling unwell and for it to come on suddenly and expectantly. Vomiting isn’t unheard of either.
9. Bed Wetting/Wetting Themselves
There are many reasons a child might be wetting the bed or weeing themselves; restless thoughts are one.
10. Quick to Burst into Tears
When we can’t process things and are overwhelmed by the situation we’re in or the thoughts we’re having, sometimes we cry. Naturally, this is even more the case with children who cannot compartmentalize information in the same way as we can.
There are more signs than these and showing one or even multiple is not a guarantee that your child has anxiety. That said, if your little one is displaying any of the below symptoms, as a father, I urge you to consider the possibility and to consult a medical care professional to be sure.