why you need to talk to your child about anxiety

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On 12th June 2019, we at Cuemath organized a Facebook Live session– Let’s talk about Anxiety with Dr. Saumya Udupa. Dr. Saumya is a clinical psychologist with over 15+ years of experience under her belt. She currently works with Apollo Hospitals as a consultant neuropsychologist.

What is Anxiety?

According to Dr. Saumya, anxiety is considered as one of the most common mental health concern with 4-20% of children suffering from one form of anxiety disorder.  Anxiety disorders generally manifest in the form of various physical symptoms such as excessive nervousness, irrational fear of certain social situations, worrying and unwarranted apprehension.

What are the different forms anxiety take in children?

Anxiety can manifest itself in any age group, even in young children. There are many factors that contribute to higher levels of anxiety among children – negative or strong behavior exhibited by parents in the form of – overcontrol, rejection, negativity, lack of warmth; lack of attachment between the parent and the child; levels of conflicts and bonding in the family, the child’s own personality and biases; and occurrence of traumatic events that cause stress.

The symptoms of anxiety can also vary from children to children and among different age groups.

Typical symptoms of Anxiety in children aged 5-6 years:

5 to 6-year-olds can show various symptoms of anxiety. Usually, children of this age-bracket get scared of the things they see in their waking life – such as masks and grotesque objects, situations or imagery. Unlike adults, children feel strongly about such simulations which stress them out.

. Some of the striking symptoms of anxiety in this age group are:

  1.     Constant worry about harm coming to their family, especially parents.
  2.     Getting scared of imaginary creatures like the boogeyman.
  3.     Unable to stay away from or remain separated from the parents.

Typical symptoms of Anxiety in children aged 7-8 years:

As the child gets older, the symptoms can get less intense compared to the symptoms that younger children show. Older children in this age group are more likely to be worried about failures, disappointing their parents and can some times develop a case of performance anxiety.

Some of the symptoms of anxiety in this group are:

  1.     Constant worrying about failure.
  2.     Not going ahead with a task due to the preconceived notion of failing in it.
  3.     Developing a phobia or fear towards certain medical procedure e.g.. going to the dentist.

As a child grows older, the way their brain perceives the fear and the things that scare or worry them become more and more complex in nature.
Typical symptoms of Anxiety in children aged 9-12 years:

Children in this age group mainly fear or worry about criticisms, failure and getting rejected by someone or for something. This is also the age-group where children start developing a fear of getting bullied or teased, and start building a defensive fight or flight mechanism that may make them aggressive or socially shut off.

Some of the symptoms of anxiety in this group are:

  1.     Getting agitated or upset at negative criticism.
  2.     Starting fights if teased about something.
  3.     Becoming pessimistic about doing a task, because of previous failures.

Typical symptoms of Anxiety in children aged 13-18 years:

At this age, children mostly tend to have a growing fear of not fitting into a particular social circle or peer group. As teenagers, this can have a lasting effect on their minds as they try to develop a sense of belonging.

Some of the symptoms of anxiety in this group are:

  1.     Reacting to a situation.
  2.     Going out of the way to ‘Fit’ into a particular peer group.
  3.     Constantly getting frustrated if they’re unable to get positive results in a particular task.

At Cuemath, we strive to ensure a mentally and emotionally safe space for your child to grow, learn and have fun. We don’t just make your child great at math, we also help them get over the anxiety they may have towards the subject.

How can you find out if your child has anxiety?

Research provides multiple pointers to know and understand if your child is suffering which in turn triggers their fight or flight response. In other instances, an overanxious child may find it difficult to sleep or may feel insecure and afraid if left alone in a social situation.

Worryingly, over longer periods of time, higher levels of anxiety in a child may eventually lead to substance abuse, pessimism towards life in general and academic underachievement.
What are the different forms that anxiety takes in a child?

Anxiety in children may take various forms and can be broadly categorized as:

  •    Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common form of anxiety in children. While we as adults have a lot of things to worry about in our day to day life, children worry about a lot of things too. GAD starts interfering with the way your child performs their day to day activities and prevents them from performing their daily routine in a normal manner. Having GAD makes it hard for children to focus in school, relax or have fun. In more serious cases, GAD can manifest itself as physical symptoms such as constantly falling sick, stomach aches and headaches.

  •     Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

    A lot of times various negative thoughts or images can flood a child’s mind causing them to excessively worry about it. These thoughts can range from a fear of death in the family, natural calamities or separated loved ones or parents. Unlike Generalised Anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the body’s fight response to stress and worry. In this case, the child/the teen will in certain ritualistic or repetitive physical or mental activities either consciously or subconsciously in an attempt to try to distract their mind from the cause of worry.

  •     Phobias:

It’s normal for children to feel scared about various things in life. A child can be scared of imaginary monsters hiding under their bed, natural calamities or the dark. However, when the normal fears take on a more intense form, rendering the child unable to act or react in situations they fear, it’s termed as a phobia. In such cases, a child is fearful of something and tries their best to avoid it how-so-ever they can. Phobias can also be isolated to certain things or situations, such as a phobia towards certain animals, a phobia towards a doctors visit or consultation. Over time, such phobia’s can be very crippling for the child.

  •     Social Anxiety:

Social anxiety stems from the child’s constant worrying what others think of them in certain social situations. They fear they may say something that others will tease them or make fun of them for. Social anxiety can be crippling and can prevent the child from participating in various social situations, and in some cases also cause them to avoid social places altogether.

  • Separation Anxiety:

It’s normal for very young kids and babies to feel some level of anxiety when their parents are away from them. However as a child grows old, they outgrow the need to cling to their parents at all times. When a child is unable to outgrow their need to be with their parents, it takes the form of separation anxiety. With separation anxiety, the child may refuse to go to school or anywhere where their parents are not present around them. Being apart, can be very stressful for the child and lead them to fall sick often.

  • Math Anxiety:

Math Anxiety is a form of anxiety that takes place when a child is very stressed and constantly worries about their performance, and fears failing in math-related tasks and activities. Math Anxiety stems from -over pressurizing the child to score higher marks beyond what the child is capable to score; fearing the teacher or tutor teaching the subject; poor or lack of understanding of the concepts; and an overall pessimism and dislike towards the subject altogether.

Let’s talk about it: why should you know more about anxiety?

As a parent, it’s important you understand how certain unregulated emotions affect your child’s mental health. There are examples of programs wherein parents have implemented strategies to help their children shed avoidance tendencies and become more independent.

Parents must know and be open about the effectiveness of different options available to them when it comes to addressing the problems of non-compliance, irritability and challenging behavior among children.

Some of the feasible approaches are:

  1.     Talking about anxiety: Anxiety is no longer perceived as a subject that cannot be openly discussed, as you’re reading this article, your child may already know why they’re feeling the way they are. If you feel your child is showing symptoms of anxiety, sit with them and tell them -’let’s talk about anxiety’.
  2.     Setting up a daily routine of doing specific tasks; making changes to the physical environment; being flexible and accommodative; monitoring the behavior and; providing emotional security, and designing a structured lifestyle.

At Cuemath, we strive to ensure a mentally and emotionally safe space for your child to grow, learn and have fun. We don’t just make your child great at math, we also help them get over the anxiety they may have towards the subject.

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