Anxiety in Children
Anxiety in Children under 12
Anxiety in children is not uncommon. It’s natural for any child to worry at times, and because of personality and temperament differences, some may worry more than others. How parents and teachers support children to manage their worry is important, because the right approach can ensure that children learn effective strategies to deal with their current and future worries. When worries begin to impact upon a child’s quality of life, we may consider this excessive worry part of an anxiety disorder. Approximately 15% of children and teenagers are expected to develop a clinically significant anxiety disorder before they reach adulthood.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Children May Include:
- Behavioural inhibition (avoidance of situations, activities or certain people)
- Seeking close physical proximity to caregivers and other trusted individuals
- Strong emotional reactions to certain situations (including fear, crying and anger)
- Excessive reassurance seeking
- Behavioural problems, such as non-compliance and oppositionality
- School refusal resulting from anxiety and avoidance
- Somatic complaints (“sore tummies”, headaches, etc.)
- Ritualised behaviours
Both nurture and nature are thought to play a role in the development of anxiety disorders. Parental behaviours can serve to maintain anxiety disorders, particularly if parents have an anxious worldview and do not promote the child’s independence and coping skills.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
At Rose Park Psychology, a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy approach, enriched with concepts of Mindfulness, is taken to the treatment of anxiety disorders. Research has shown that this is a particularly effective treatment for problems of this kind. Treatment is delivered in an age-appropriate and engaging way, with principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy taught to younger children through puppets, play and other creative means. Parents are closely involved in treatment, to reinforce new behaviours and assist in generalising treatment gains to the child’s everyday environment.
Treatment typically involves:
- Psycho-education – giving parents and children an understanding of the particular anxiety disorder and what factors play a role in maintaining the disorder
- Relaxation training, when appropriate
- Cognitive restructuring and problem solving strategies
- Graduated exposure to anxiety producing situations
- Relapse prevention
Psychologists and Child Psychology
If you suspect anxiety problems are beginning to be a problem for your child, it may be useful to consider seeking the advice and support of a psychologist. The good news is that early identification and treatment of anxiety problems can lead to very good outcomes and can equip children with lifelong coping strategies, skills and resilience.