Noticing your child is anxious and wondering if it’s “normal” or not? Of course you are! You’ve been observing your child for some time and maybe your child has even approached you to talk about her worries.
You understand that anxiety is natural but you’re still thinking “How much is too much? Is this something that my child should ‘just deal with’? Or is it time to seek out professional help?”
Let’s review in brief the most common reasons for anxiety in a school-age child, when anxiety is helpful, and when your child should get help for her anxiety.
What’s making my child anxious?
During the school age years there’s a lot for your child to be anxious about:
- making and keeping friends
- test taking, presentations, asking and answering questions in class
- parents getting divorced
- moving to new school or home
- slumber parties (and other situations of separation)
- death in the family including family pet
- watching violent games, shows, and movies
Is anxiety a good thing?
It can be! Anxiety does serve a purpose. It helps your child to think through what is worrying her. This way, she can start to work on fixing the problem (like saying sorry to a friend she hurt) or to prepare for whatever is looming in her mind (like taking that super hard algebra test at school).
“Getting rid” of anxiety is not a realistic goal for your child. While it doesn’t feel good to have worries, it’s a sign that your child cares about stuff in her world. Anxiety figuratively is trying to say “This topic is important to me and my brain is asking me to do something about it.”
Helping your child communicate her worries so they don’t get stuck in her mind can be helpful. Helping her sort out her feelings so she can develop an action plan can oftentimes be the best step in helping her to feel better.
When should my child get help for anxiety?
Sometimes the “normal” anxiety that your child experiences can cross the line into an unhealthy zone. There are definitely some signs that you should be looking out for:
- Sleep disturbances (Ex: difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, nightmares)
- Difficulty concentrating on daily tasks and homework
- Feeling restless (may look like hyperactivity or ADHD symptoms)
- Acting irritable or on edge (can look like defiance)
- Complaints of being tired or of aches and pains in stomach, head, or other parts of her body (if these are happening, it’s best to also consult with her medical provider)
And if your child is struggling with friendships or grades are failing, those could also be indicators that the anxiety is overwhelming, and much more than your child can handle.
Bottom line: When in doubt, consulting with a mental health professional about your child’s anxiety can be a powerful part of the journey of helping to ease your child’s anxiety.
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.