Anxiety is the most common mental health condition across the globe. While most people tend to think of it as an issue that impacts adults, children and teens are often just as prone to dealing with it. According to the CDC, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety has become an even bigger problem for children. It’s not enough to assume those worries and fears will go away over time. In many cases, if anxiety isn’t addressed and worked through, those feelings could last into adulthood.
So, what can you do to support a child if they’re struggling with anxiety? Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, or teacher, there are several effective ways to make a positive impact.
1. Get to the Root Cause
When someone seeks out professional help for anxiety, one of the first things a mental health professional will do is attempt to get to the underlying cause. It’s hard to move forward and figure out the best management techniques without knowing what’s triggering the anxiety, in the first place.
If you’re trying to help a child that’s struggling, the same principles apply. Some of the common causes of anxiety in kids include
- Moving to a new place
- Parents arguing/going through a divorce
- Being abused or neglected
- The loss of a loved one
Issues in school can also contribute to anxiety in kids and teenagers. One study found that 80% of young people have struggled with exam pressure which hurt their mental health. If you think a child’s anxiety is stemming from issues with school work, consider helping them with their homework, offering tutoring sessions, or working through a practice exam with them. If their worries are coming from problems at home, it can help to provide a listening ear or to seek out the assistance of a professional.
2. Learn the Signs
Once you know a child’s triggers, it’s just as important to learn the common signs of anxiety. At times, they may be able to manage their symptoms on their own. But, no child should have to struggle with that kind of pressure and weight. Some of the most common signs of anxiety in children are
- Difficulty concentrating
- Looking/feeling tense
- Negative thoughts
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
As children get older, they might try to hide some of these signs – especially in their teenage years. Pay close attention, whether you’re a parent or educator, so you can step in for support whenever it’s needed.
When you learn the signs of a child’s anxiety, you can offer validation and help them learn how to accept what they’re feeling. Sometimes, that’s all it takes for a young mind to calm down and fight back against negative thinking. The more aware you are of the common symptoms, the easier it will be for you to address them in age-appropriate ways that will encourage your child to open up, rather than trying to keep things hidden.
3. Create a Calming Environment
One of the best things you can do for anxious children is to reduce their stress levels. That involves creating a calming environment that makes it easier to manage their symptoms and talk about what they’re feeling.
An easy way to create a more relaxing environment at home or school is to introduce more greenery. Having houseplants around is a natural way to reduce stress and improve health. Having a child take care of a plant can also help with feelings of loneliness and provide them with a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Bringing plants into your home or classroom is a great place to start, but you can take things one step further by creating a natural outdoor playground for your kid(s). A natural playground will allow you to spend more time with your child and listen to their feelings. It will also help to reduce their stress by giving them a place to play that’s surrounded by nature. Multiple studies have shown how spending time outside can reduce fear, anger, and stress – even in children. Letting your child spend as much time in nature as possible is one of the best ways to calm their anxious thoughts.
It’s not easy to deal with the fact that so many kids and teens are struggling with anxiety. But, it’s an unfortunate byproduct of the world we’re living in. While you may not be able to prevent their worries from trying to take over, there are things you can do to support them. The more support they receive now, the easier it will be for them to manage their anxiety as they get older. Keep these ideas in mind and pay close attention to the children in your life. You could end up doing more for them and their future than you ever thought possible.