Anxiety in School Children
What Is It?
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we will all experience at some time in our lives, such as in the build up to exams or even something as simple as a job interview. But when anxiety starts to become much more severe, this feeling can very quickly and unknowingly take over your life. Before you know it you can’t perform everyday tasks that you took for granted previously and you begin to hide yourself away from the situations where the anxiety had a peak.
When you suffer with anxiety as yourself, you can at least feel the severity and try and deal with it yourself, however when it is a child that is affected, you can feel very helpless and scared.
Anxiety can linger and yet no one really sees it for what it is. It can lead to all kinds of behaviours you don’t understand – you or your child. And as it grows, you start to realise exactly what it is. Now is the time that you begin to figure out what you can do to help your child through this.
Children can begin to feel anxious about different things at different ages. Most of these anxious feelings are a normal part of growing up.
From approximately eight months to three years old it’s very common for young children to have whats referred to as separation anxiety. They can suddenly become clingy and fret when separated from their parents or carers. This is a totally normal stage in a child’s development and will eventually begin to ease off at around age two or three.
It’s then also common for pre-school children to display various fears or phobias. The most common fears within early childhood can include insects, water, animals, storms, heights, blood, and the dark. These fears usually dissipate on their own over time.
Continuing through a child’s life there will be various other times when anxiety rears its ugly head; when starting a new school, for example, or before tests or exams. Some children also feel shy in social situations and might need extra support with this.
Anxiety only becomes a problem for children when it begins to get in the way of their everyday life.
What Are They Feeling?
When a young child feels anxious, they don’t always understand or are able to express what it is that they are feeling. They could:
- become irritable, tearful or clingy
- experience interrupted sleeping
- wake in the night
- start wetting the bed
- experience bad dreams or night terrors
With older children they could:
- lack confidence in trying new things or maybe seem unable to face simple, everyday situations
- find it difficult to concentrate
- experience problems with sleeping or eating
- be prone to angry outbursts
- have negative thoughts, or keep thinking that bad things will to happen
- begin to avoid everyday activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or attending school
What Can I Do?
The key here is to notice these changes or symptoms and offer them help and support because they will be feeling far from normal. Maybe even visit your GP initially and be guided by them.
I have worked with many children who have suffered with anxiety for many different reasons and together with them and their parents we have found a solution and moved into a more confident and happy life.
Clare Kiernan is the sole owner of Essex Therapy and can be contacted on 01268 527757 or 07840 416633 or if you feel more comfortable sending an email, please do so to: firstname.lastname@example.org.