The world of children is governed by its own rules, and in certain respects we adults have some difficulty in interpreting them. In childhood, life is experienced differently, and the psychological side of the youngest children does not necessarily have to be easy for caregivers to understand, whether they are parents or guardians.
This is something that should be taken into account especially when assessing the importance of recognizing the signs of childhood anxiety in time , in order to be able to stop them. In this article we will talk about this phenomenon, which is more common than it seems.
What is childhood anxiety?
Childhood anxiety occurs when, during childhood, young people feel that the experience they are living at a certain time, or throughout a broader stage, is beyond them, without there being a clear or relatively easy solution to it.
While childhood anxiety disorders are quite specific and don’t have to happen in every case where a child feels anxiety, anxiety is more common than you might think. Situations that encourage their appearance are, for example, an education based on punishment, the existence of mistreatment or school harassment, the obligation to attend many extracurricular activities, etc.
Thus, it can be said that childhood anxiety is a psychological and physiological phenomenon in which the person enters into a state of sustained alertness , experiencing symptoms based on rumination (obsessive thinking and following a “loop”) and the hyperactivation of the autonomic nervous system that negatively affect one or several areas of the child’s life, such as family life, learning in the educational centre he or she attends, etc.
Symptoms of anxiety in children
Of course, childhood anxiety has a common basis in the way all human beings, regardless of age, experience anxiety. However, the symptoms are expressed in a different way, since the vital moment in which the youngest are, of course, involves other ways of interacting with the environment and trying to adapt to it .
Thus, although in practice each case is unique, in general, childhood anxiety takes the form of the following symptoms. Each of them need not indicate the sustained presence of anxiety, but if some of them occur at the same time, it is probably the case.
- Fear of being alone.
- Tics and semi-automatic stereotypical behaviors (hair pulling, nail biting, etc.)
- Crying .
- Need to be physically in contact with the caregiver, constantly.
- Crisis of distress at separation from caregivers.
On the other hand, in the case of anxiety disorders, other more specific symptoms may appear depending on what the problem is. For example, in the case of phobias, the crises occur in response to specific stimuli.
Helping Children with Anxiety
Here are some tips to follow to help children overcome and alleviate their anxiety.
1. Give clear behavioral guidelines
Many times, anxiety appears as a reaction to a chaotic environment, which is not understood. For example, it is not uncommon for childhood anxiety to arise in experiences where there is a perceived contradiction in the norms of behavior to be followed at home.
That is why it is important to be consistent with these rules, not to force children to obey arbitrary and changing rules , and above all to make sure they understand them and why they make sense, even if it is through very simplified explanations about their usefulness.
2. Communicating more and better
At a certain age, young children are already able to express in words what it is that makes them feel bad . The fact that their cognitive skills are not yet fully developed does not mean that their point of view should not count; in these cases, quite the contrary.
3. Show them support
The fact that a child feels protected by an adult makes him or her lose fear of the environment, because they feel that even if they make a mistake and do something wrong, the presence of the caregivers will act as a mattress or a cushion.
4. Give them affection
Not all stimuli have to be based on information expressed through words. Samples of affection are essential for correct development during childhood, and in fact it is necessary to rely on them for children to develop adaptive attachment styles.
5. Explain that they should not feel bad
When you experience anxiety, it is easy to fall into the trap of blaming yourself. This is also true for children, so it must be made clear that this is a phenomenon that we can consciously only influence indirectly.