Your child seems to have many fears, is anxious and overwhelmed at home, in large crowds, in school, around other children, or in unfamiliar surroundings. Is it anxiety or is it every day stress? Anxiety and stress come in many different shapes and sizes. However, anxiety can be caused by a mental illness or an anxiety disorder. How do we know the difference and how can we recognize signs and symptoms? While the lines between stress and anxiety are often blurred and many times share the same physical symptoms, there are distinct differences all parents should be aware of.
How to recognize the signs
Here are some helpful tips to determine whether your child is experiencing normal stress or coping with real anxiety issues.
What is it?
Physical or mental reaction to stressful situations that interferes with daily functionality (sense of helplessness)
Fear of what “might” happen instead of what is happening
Chemical body reaction that causes fear, excitement, anger, anxiousness, etc.
Often mistaken for behavioral issues
How a child’s body and mind responds to any kind of demand.
Any type of emotional or physical situation triggered by change.
Chemical body reaction to day-to-day life that is associated with frustration and nervousness.
Reaction to what is happening in the moment.
What causes it?
Threatening situations such as bullying, being in the spotlight, unfamiliar social situations
Pressures of homework, timed tests or group projects
Social situations with peers or with the teacher
Frustration with grades or not grasping certain concepts
Changes in routine or home-life situation
Signs you may notice
Your child is less aware of a situation that points to the cause of their anxiety.
Unfounded fears or dread of everyday situations
Panic attacks, chills, headaches, hot flashes, chest pains
Phobias of events, activities or social situations that lead to panic
Oftentimes has a snowball effect; converts fear into feelings
More than six months of excessive, unrealistic worry
Your child can pinpoint a specific situation that is causing the stressful state.
Headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger
Digestive problems or irritability
Could cause viral infections, such as the flu or a common cold
How to help
If severe, consult a mental health professional or therapist
Create a plan to teach your child coping skills, relaxation techniques or breathing exercises
Talk openly with them about their symptoms
Baby steps; take things slowly and one day at a time
Teach kids how to rate their fears, but don’t cater to the fear.
Teach them positive phrases “I can do this” and “I will be ok”
Physical activity (sports, parks, yoga, walking)
Talk through the issues with your children (be a good listener)
Healthy diet (avoid sugary and salty foods that can make stress worse)
Contact a tutor, the teacher or a friend for recommendations
If severe, find intervention with a medical or health professional
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