Child anxiety is one of the most frequent disorders in children and adolescents; in fact, various studies estimate that between 9% and 21% of children and young people suffer from this disorder. This context should serve not to alarm us but to consider that this is a fairly common problem. It is, therefore, a frequent problem to which it is possible to find a solution.
Anxiety is an adaptive response that helps us to recognize possible threats; therefore, it is an emotion that all people experience and that serves a function; it is not bad. As long as it is kept at normal levels, it must be considered healthy since it is a protection mechanism. However, when a child has elevated and sustained anxiety over time, it is a red flag.
We would only speak of pathological anxiety when faced with situations in which their intensity, frequency, and duration are excessive. It is also characteristic of pathological anxiety to show itself even without any reason that triggers it. In these cases, the consequences of this disorder, both physiological and psychological, can be very harmful.
Children are also especially vulnerable to this problem since they do not yet have the knowledge and tools to control their impulses and emotions adequately. An important part of the learning and the maturing process goes through acquiring these skills. As they grow older, children face different fears and learn to control them. The fear of the dark, going to school, and not always being with the parents are just examples. The problem can occur when they do not learn to manage this anxiety properly, so we will have to help them.
If we detect that our child has anxiety, we should not be alarmed, and above all, we must know how to act. It is not a complex problem, and, in general, it is easy to solve.
The first step is to normalize the situation and to help the child change his beliefs. Talking openly with him, understanding what worries him, and teaching him to show his feelings is the starting point. It is about the child not feeling bad about feeling worried, understanding his emotions, and learning how to control them. The work of parents is essential; they must serve as a help and act as role models.
In the second stage, work will begin on confronting the child with his fears. This has to be done gradually. In this process, we will help the child to face those situations that generate anxiety.
With this approach and dedicating time and attention to the child, the problem is solved in most cases. Only on rare occasions will we find severe anxious children whose situation is more complex. In these cases, it is best to go to a psychologist specializing in child therapy. This professional will be able to develop a clinical intervention with the child to treat the anxiety disorder.
As a therapist, I am always looking for products that can help my patients reducing anxiety in children. I also like to give parents some tools that they can easily implement at home. Here is a compilation of my favorite products and activities that help children focus attention and feel better during moments of stress or anxiety.
Some anxious children have a habit of chewing on whatever they will find, from clothing and nails to pencils or toys. Giving kids a suitable choice to chew on will reduce damage to clothes and nails and helps them to satisfy that urge. Necklaces are easy to wear and won’t stigmatize kids. These are our favorites:
- ARK’s Brick Stick XXT Textured Chew Necklace
- Miller Heart – Amethyst – Chew Necklace
- BPA Free Silicone Teething Necklace (Teardrop)
- ARK’s Saber Tooth Chew Necklace for Mild to Moderate Chewing
Sometimes, when children feel anxious they are also feeling panicky. When they feel anxiety, distress or anger, redirecting their focus can help them to calm down. Let your child spend some time watching a relaxing lava lamp, playing with soft sand or squeezing some foam ball.
- Super Z Outlet Liquid Motion Bubbler
- Halilit HL400 Rainbomaker
- 2 Play foam Sensory Tactile toy
- Small 4 Liter Portable Sand Tray with Lid
- Super Z Outlet Colorful Liquid Motion Bubbler Desk Sensory Timer
Worry stones is a great idea. You can put one in your kid’s pocket to rub when they are feeling overwhelmed. They are polished, colourful stones with an indentation that use reflexology to promote a feeling of calm and relaxation.
Swings and Tents
Some children like to move, rock, or hide when they are feeling anxious. Find out what your child prefers.
Does she want to bury herself and hide their face when upset? Do they often rock or jump around?
Find what they need and provide it for them. Ask your child to swing, jump, or go to the tent when she is feeling overwhelmed.
- Swinging Monkey Products Giant Mat Platform Swing
- Harkla Sensory Swing for Kids
- Sorbus Kids Nest Swing Chair Nook
- FoxPrint Rocket Ship Tent
- TazzToys Kids Teepee Tent with Fairy Lights +Waterproof Base + Feathers – Quality & Safety Certified
- Trekassy Saucer Tree Swing
White Noise Machines
Anxious kids are hyper-vigilant at night. They can hear every noise, creak, and footstep. This can cause some major sleep problems. White noise blocks out background noise, allowing your kid to relax and sleep better. If your child is having a hard time sleeping, try a white noise machine.
Guided Visual Imagery CDs
To relax children when they are feeling anxious or are trying to go to bed, you can try guided visual imagery in CDs.
You can get your child to fall asleep listening to them or use them when they feel particularly anxious and need help to calm down.
Books/Videos on Anxiety in children
It is essential to educate yourself and your child on how anxiety works. There are great books directed towards children as well as parents.
I always recommend parents read What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids). For kids twelve and older, you can have them read my book, Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide.
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