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Spotting the signs of anxiety in young children

Spotting the signs of anxiety in young children

As parents and guardians, we want to do our best to ensure the wellbeing and emotional health of our children. 

While childhood is often associated with carefree days and boundless imagination, it’s important to recognise that young children can experience anxiety too.

Identifying the signs of anxiety in early childhood is essential for providing the necessary support. In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of child anxiety, explore how it manifests and provide some guidance on how to help children manage their emotions.

Understanding Anxiety in Children

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that serves as a defence mechanism to protect us in potentially dangerous situations.

Anxiety becomes a problem for children when it starts to interfere with their everyday life. Children may not always be able to express their emotions verbally, which can make identifying anxiety a challenge.

Common Signs of Anxiety in Young People

1. Excessive Worry: Persistent and excessive worry about everyday events or situations is a common sign. Some things that may cause this in children include: being separated from parents, going to school, or other social situations

2. Avoidance: Anxious children may actively avoid situations or places that trigger their anxiety. For example, avoiding school or exams, or participating in activities they once enjoyed

3. Restlessness and Irritability: Anxiety can manifest as restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and increased irritability or moodiness

4. Sleep Disturbances: Sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent nightmares, or night sweats, can indicate heightened anxiety

5. Perfectionism: Anxious children might come across as perfectionists, striving for unattainable levels of perfection in their activities

6. Separation Anxiety: Anxious children may struggle with being separated from their parents or guardians

7. Excessive Self-Criticism: Children with anxiety may be excessively self-critical, doubting their abilities and feeling inadequate

8: Physical Symptoms: Children may complain of stomach aches or headaches, without any apparent reason

Tips for Supporting Anxious Children

1. Open Communication: Create an environment where children feel comfortable expressing their feelings. Encourage open conversations about their worries and fears

2. Normalise Emotions: Reassure your child that anxiety is a normal emotion and that many people experience it. Teach them coping strategies to manage their feelings

3. Breathing Exercises: Teach children simple breathing exercises to help them calm down when they feel anxious. Deep breathing can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety

4. Mindfulness and Relaxation: Introduce mindfulness techniques and relaxation exercises to help children stay present and manage their anxiety

5. Gradual Exposure: If your child is avoiding certain situations due to anxiety, try a gradual exposure approach. Start with small, manageable steps to build their confidence

6. Limit Screen Time: Excessive screen time, especially exposure to distressing news or content, can contribute to anxiety. Monitor and limit your child's screen time

7. Healthy Lifestyle: Encourage regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep. These factors play a significant role in managing anxiety

8. Seek support: If you can’t find the answers, or need additional guidance, don’t be afraid to seek professional help

Empowering Children for a Healthy Future

Recognising and addressing anxiety in young children can help nurture their emotional wellbeing. By being attuned to their emotions and providing support, parents and guardians can help children develop effective coping strategies that will serve them throughout their lives.

The Role of Child Health Insurance and Wellbeing Support

Alongside their physical health, addressing the emotional wellbeing of your children is crucial. Here at General & Medical, we offer free health and wellbeing support in all of our policies – including Generation Healthcare, our child health insurance. This includes telephone counselling, online health checks, lifestyle programmes and everyday support.

Child Health Insurance

Nothing is more important than the health of your child. Generation Healthcare gives parents peace of mind, offering a range of child-only health insurance plans.

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