By Kanchan Rai
Everyone, at some point, tends to experience anxiety — a mechanism developed by the body to handle and acclimatize to perplexing situations. Children and teens usually suffer from stress much more than adults do, as they constantly get exposed to new and puzzling environments. While little amounts of stress can be beneficial, experiencing undesirable pressure can cause long-standing psychological and physical impairment in children.
As per various studies conducted on child anxiety, it has been researched that about 7.4 per cent of children under the age group of 3-17 years have been diagnosed with a behaviour problem. For children dealing with behaviour issues, more than 1 in 3 tend to suffer from anxiety (36.6 per cent) and about 1 in 5 face depression (20.3 per cent). Since kids fail to express their emotions well, parents sometimes remain ignorant. Hence, identifying anxiety in kids is the primary step towards eliminating it.
Identifying physical, emotional and behavioural signs of childhood anxiety:
* Violent overreactions to mild problems: If your child has been showing an increase in aggressive behaviour, it is a clear indication they are stressed. Physical or verbal aggression should be immediately addressed.
* Constant sleep problems: Kids who have a lot running in their minds may experience problems in sleeping due to insomnia, bed-wetting, and nightmares. Bed-wetting is a common sign of your child being anxious. Waking up multiple times at night due to a frightening nightmare can also be signs that not all is well.
Emotional or behavioural symptoms:
* Unable to concentrate on academics: Refusal to attend school is one of the main causes of anxiety for kids, if the child’s stressor is linked to school. As anxiety tends to build, it scrambles with the brain, making it difficult for the child to focus on studies even while at home.
* Inability to relax: The child may be restless, irritable, and nervous, or may be unwilling to let parents out of sight.
* Loss of appetite: Stress can cause headaches and abdominal pain in kids. This can lead to refusal to eat food and a visible change in the child’s eating patterns. Some may tend to overeat, while others might experience loss of appetite.
Tips to ease the stress indicators:
– Dealing with your child’s irritability with patience: The extended lockdown phase may trigger stress in children. Staying away from school and being separated from their friends may cause emotional discomfort leading to developmental problems. Toddlers may unveil behavioural changes due to feeling unsafe because they are put in a new and uncertain routine. Kids may unconsciously display regression in their behavior as a coping skill and a desire to return to the phase where they felt secured. Parents must deal with the situation with utmost patience. Take the quarantine period as an opportunity and nurture stronger bonds with your children, which will enable them to confide in you in case they have been undergoing bouts of stress.
– Keep a note of how your child or teen has been interacting with others: In many cases, the child may act normal at home, but may exhibit a changed behaviour outside. Parents must communicate with other guardians and school teachers to understand the child or teen’s behaviour patterns at school.
– Act positively: Children may sometimes express feelings of trauma by saying undesirable things about themselves or others. They may say things like, ‘no one likes me’, or ‘I am irresponsible’. Parents must guide the child in a positive direction, thus eliminating any negative feelings from their minds.
– Seek help: Instead of tackling such overwhelming situations on your own, it is advisable to seek expert help. The mental health professional can help identify problems and will develop operative strategies to resolve feelings of anxiety.
Kids thrive in a structured environment where they feel secure and loved. The greatest thing parents can do to lessen the stress for your child is to watch their behavior. A watchful observation will help you in identifying the cause of their stress.
(The writer is a mental & emotional wellbeing coach, and the founder of Let Us Talk)
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