Kids can’t always say what’s on their mind
Children can be fearful of going to bed, going to school – or not going to school in the event of a closure. When a child can’t get past their worries, they may be struggling with anxiety. According to the World Health Organization, 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide experience mental disorders. While mental health organisation Beyond Blue states on its website that half of all the mental health conditions we experience at some point in our lives will have started by age 14, and 13.9% of children and young people (aged 4 to 17 years) met the criteria for a diagnosis of a mental disorder in the last 12 months.
During times of uncertainty, parents should be extra aware of the signs of anxiety in children to help them manage their fears and worries. Below our experts explain what to look for and how to help your child cope.
Asking for screen-time more often
Many children love playing computer or video games, but those with anxiety may submerge themselves in screens more often. According to Professor Dan Mortenson, a lead therapist at the Chicago Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Center, “Excessive use of screen-based activities can often be a sign that a child is struggling and trying to escape from difficult emotions,” he says. Instead of letting your child retreat into the screen, you can interact with them as they use it. Play a game together or ask questions about what they’re watching. You might find out some insightful information about how they’re feeling in the process.
Pleasing everyone in their path
Kids with anxiety tend to be people-pleasers for fear of disappointing someone they care about. Assertiveness and self-esteem skills are crucial for children to develop at an early age and, without them, kids may always have a fear of rejection, says cognitive behavioural therapist Julia Colangelo. “I encourage parents to take some coaching classes to learn how to develop these skills [in their child] if they notice that their child is always ‘being pushed around’ or not asking for what they want or need.”