15 silent signs of anxiety in children
Children don’t always openly tell you when they’re worrying about something. These signs may give parents a clue that they're experiencing anxiety.
Anxiety in children maybe difficult to notice. Most children don't often say when they are feeling anxiety or worrying about something. Most children can't find the words to describe how they are feeling so they just keep it to themselves. Here are the 15 silent signs of anxiety in children.
Excessive screen-based activities
Many children love spending time on video games and different types of gadgets. But those experiencing anxiety may submerge themselves in gadgets more often. The excessive use of gadgets can often be a sign that a child is trying to escape difficult emotions. According to child psychologists, it's good to interact with the children as they use the gadgets. Playing a game together or asking questions about what they're watching can help parents find out more about how the child is feeling.
Being a people pleaser
For fear of disappointing someone they care about, kids with anxiety tend to please everyone in their path. Child psychologists say that kids may always have a fear of rejection if they don't develop assertiveness and self-esteem skills at an early age. This is crucial and parents might need to take coaching classes to learn how to develop these skills.
Excessive hand washing
Children with anxiety often tend to deal with their anxiety through physical rituals. These rituals are often excessive forms of hand washing, nail biting, scratching the scalp, chanting, shaky hands, and sweating. Teaching kids meditation, positive thinking patterns, and writing in a journal can help them cope with anxiety.
Sudden change in the nighttime ritual
Major and sudden shifts in the child's nighttime ritual may be a way for a kid to cope up with anxiety. This may include walking often through the night, having trouble falling asleep or suddenly asking to sleep next to the parents. According to experts, involving the parents in the child's nighttime routine may help ease the kid's anxiety.
Preferring to be alone
Kids who are usually social butterflies that suddenly prefer to be alone may be showing signs of anxiety and depression. Experts advise to explore ways to engage children on one-on-one with other children or siblings.
Sudden changes in eating patterns
Parents often think children are just being picky eaters, but suddenly refusing their favorite food and having changes in eating patterns could be a sign of anxiety in children. For some children, undiagnosed sensory sensitivities may play a significant role in anxiety toward newly introduced foods. It’s important for parents to talk to their child’s pediatrician as soon as possible after noticing changes in eating patterns or increased food aversions to get their child the right help.
Becoming more dependent and more emotionally attached
A once-independent child that suddenly wants increased alone time with a parent or becomes jealous of a sibling, could be showing signs of anxiety. If the children's secure attachment crosses the border to anxiety-driven attachment, parents should respond with consistent reassurance.
Asking about everything
Kids are known for asking lots of questions. When the questions start to happen multiple times a day and shift to seeking reassurance from others, anxiety could be behind this excessive questioning. If there seems to be a lot of worry-based questioning coming from a child, parents should take it upon themselves to also ask questions without being intrusive. Parents should be ready to listen to all the kid's fears and help in whatever way they can.
Aches and pains
Anxiety in some children shows through aches and pains that aren't related to any medical condition. Parents maybe able to help by showing how to take regular breaths using the diaphragm rather than short rapid ones.
Chronically delaying tasks goes hand-in-hand with feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety. Children suffering from anxiety tend to put-off completing homework because they don't think they can do it correctly. Often, all a child needs is to know that someone cares enough to help them through a rough patch.
Struggles in toilet behaviors
When a potty-trained child suddenly starts wetting the bed, getting constipated, or refusing the toilet, they could be suffering from anxiety. This behavior can be a subtle but common physical sign that a child is worrying about something. Parents shouldn’t criticize a child when this happens, but instead, offer a lending ear when he’s ready to talk.
Fixation on perfectionism
It's great for kids to show dedication on an interest, but when this dedication shifts to perfectionism, it could be because of anxiety. When the kids fixate so much on getting something right that it affects sleeping patterns or willingness to participate in their favorite activities, it could be a problem. Helping the child see things from a new point of view could put things into perspective.
Refusing to join after-school club activities
A child that start to skip after-school activities they once loved in favor of staying home where they feel secured and protected may be suffering from anxiety. These after-school activities are can significantly impact their development, self-esteem, social skills, school performance and more. It's important for parents to validate the children's concerns and negotiate a fair balance.
Sudden intense mood swings
Becoming irritable, seemingly out of nowhere could be a child's way of displaying anxiety. Child psychologists advise that parents should have frequent talks with the child when these behavior changes occur and to ask specific questions about the child’s day and how they feel. Broad questions like "What's wrong?" or "What happened?" should be avoided.
Looking exhausted after school
One of the leading symptoms of anxiety is extreme fatigue. If a child comes home from school looking exhausted, even after having a complete night sleep, they could be suffering from anxiety. It's possible that going back to school after a long exciting summer is causing anxiety. Parents can help the child relax by practicing calming breathing techniques or some after-school yoga together.
Source: Reader's Digest