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Parent Nooz Camp Guide
Posted on August 21, 2016 | 9:00 a.m.

First Steps for Helping Children, Teens Cope with Bouts of Anxiety

Anxiety is part of being human, but for children, regular fears can be hard to rationalize and process.
Anxiety is part of being human, but for children, regular fears can be hard to rationalize and process. (Green Shoot Media photo)

Source: Green Shoot Media

Many adults suffer from anxiety, and oftentimes, those struggles begin at a young age.

Children in pre­school all the way up to high school can have issues with anxiety and stress. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25 percent of 13­- to 18-­year­-olds have a “prevalence” for anxiety, while about 5.9 percent may suffer from severe anxiety.

It’s a major issue for children, and most kids battle short-­term bouts of anxiety over everything from a school project to a teacher they don’t like.

Younger children

For younger children, such as pre­schoolers and elementary students, one approach that can help with processing anxiety is to have a discussion to explain exactly what anxiety is to them — on their terms.

For children that young, it can be hard to differentiate between what is real and what’s imaginary. Try to explain to them that just because they think of something scary (such as a dinosaur chasing them), that doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen. This can extend to the mundane, such as worries about success at school. Explain that just because they’re worried they won’t do well, it doesn’t mean they won’t.

Take some additional time to work with your child and encourage him or her about whatever has his or her worried. It’s a relatively simple approach, but it can help.

Anxiety in teens

Anxiety gets more complex as children grow older, and by the time they reach the teenage years, many could be grappling with the issues. One prevalent anxiety issue for teens revolves around social anxiety disorders, which are only exacerbated by the fickleness of teenagers and the challenges of navigating high school.

A good first step is to have an open conversation with your teen and be accepting of his or her problems. Be encouraging, and remind him or her of past experiences overcoming adversity. Also help talk through what he or she is worried about, and what could be the cause.

If problems persist for a few months with no improvement, consider professional counseling.

 

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