Responding to your child’s anxiety

Dr. Alicia Goodman

In my 20+ years working with children, both as a school psychologist and a child psychologist, I see many children and teens who struggle with anxiety. Anxiety can manifest in many ways, from physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches to emotional symptoms such as fear and worry which can cause many sleepless nights. It's important for parents and caregivers to understand how to best respond to their child's anxiety in order to support them. 

Some of the most commonly asked questions I receive:

What are some common signs of anxiety in children?

Common signs of anxiety in children include:

-> Persistent worrying or fear

-> Avoiding certain situations or activities

-> Physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches

-> Difficulty sleeping or nightmares

-> Difficulty concentrating

-> Irritability or anger

-> Crying or tantrums

->Desire or need to control events or people

->Agitation, Irritability, Anger

What causes anxiety in children?

Anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life experiences. It's the age-old nature vs nurture debate, and the truth is, it is typically a combination of both nature (brain development, genetics) and nurture (life events, how anxiety is modeled and handled in the home) that can lead to different levels of expression of anxiety in children and teens. 

How can I help my child manage their anxiety?

There are several strategies that can be helpful in helping children manage their anxiety, including:

-> Creating a safe and predictable routine

-> Encouraging relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation

-> Educating yourself and your child about anxiety

-> Practicing positive self-talk and avoiding negative language or labels

-> Seeking professional help from a child psychologist or therapist

-> Helping your child to develop a sense of control and mastery over their anxiety

->Taking parenting classes with the focus on shifting parental responses to anxious behavior Space Treatment Options

What should I do if my child's anxiety is affecting their/our family’s daily life?

If your child's anxiety is impacting their daily life or has caused family life to be chaotic , it's important to seek professional help. A child psychologist or therapist can help to develop an individualized treatment plan to help your child manage their anxiety and improve their quality of life and help you as well. 

Are there any medications that can help with child anxiety?

Medications can be helpful in some cases of child anxiety, but it's important to work with a child psychiatrist or pediatrician to determine the best course of treatment. Medications should be used in conjunction with therapy and other coping strategies for the best outcome.

Can anxiety be cured?

Anxiety is a treatable condition, but there is not a “cure.” Also, anxiety can be helpful! Its the brain’s superpower that has helped us stay alive generation after generation. The purpose of anxiety is to protect us from danger, so we don't want it to go away, per se. We want to learn how to cope and manage it so that it is not impacting our daily functioning or quality of life. 

Here are some of the best ways to respond to your child's anxiety:

Listen and validate: One of the most important things you can do for your child is to listen to them and validate their feelings. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that you understand what they are going through. A supportive statement is great for this, such as, “ I understand you are feeling really nervous about this and I know you can work through those feelings.” 

Educate yourself: Learn about anxiety and how it affects children. The more you know about the condition, the better equipped you will be to help your child manage it. Attend workshops or trainings or read books written about childhood anxiety for parents, such a ‘Breaking Free of Childhood Anxiety and OCD’ by Dr. Eli Lebowitz.

Create a safe environment: Children feel more secure when they know that they are in a safe and supportive environment. Create a safe and predictable routine for your child, and make sure they have a comfortable place to go when they feel anxious.

Use positive language: Avoid using negative language or labels when talking about anxiety. Instead, use positive language that empowers your child to cope with their feelings.

Encourage relaxation techniques: Teaching your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can help them to manage their anxiety.

Seek professional help: At my private practice, Simply Psychology LLC,   myself and many of the other providers can assist your child in getting the best mental health care in Phoenix. Child psychologists can help your child to understand and manage their anxiety. They can provide therapy and coping strategies to support them and they can provide parent education as well. 

Be patient: Helping a child to manage their anxiety takes time and patience. Remember that progress may not be immediate, but with time and support, your child will learn how to cope with their feelings.

Anxiety can be a difficult and overwhelming experience for children and their families. By understanding how to respond to your child's anxiety, you can provide them with the support they need to manage and cope with it. If you have any concerns about your child's mental health, please reach out to Simply Psychology in Phoenix, AZ, for professional help.