Have you noticed any of these behaviours in your child?
- Excessive worries and fears, and a tendency to assume that negative things could or will happen
- Avoidance of particular situations and an unwillingness to take age-appropriate risks
- Physical complaints such as headaches and digestive problems that are not explained by an existing medical reason
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep, and/or frequent nightmares
- Crying and clinging behaviour, particularly when confronting an unfamiliar situation or when separating from a parent
- Defiant behaviours such as tantrums, refusals and aggression
- Perfectionism and procrastination: needing to repeat tasks until they are done perfectly, a tendency to be self-critical, and/or delaying getting started on tasks that are perceived to be difficult
These common signs of childhood anxiety emphasize that anxiety can present differently from one child to another. Some children come across as shy, cautious and eager to please, others are labelled as stubborn and particular, while still others show their anxiety through explosive behaviours.
Childhood anxiety is distressing for children and for their parents. Though more than 20% of children and teens cope with anxiety, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Since children do not usually have the vocabulary, self-awareness and experience to recognize their upsetting thoughts and feelings as anxiety, it can easily be misinterpreted by adults as signaling a difficult phase, a personality characteristic, or even a physical ailment. It’s a common myth that childhood anxiety resolves naturally over time, and in fact we know that in most cases it becomes more debilitating unless it is addressed through appropriate interventions. The good news is that with the assistance of a qualified child therapist, most children experience a significant reduction in their symptoms of anxiety fairly quickly. Through collaboration with parents and other caregivers, a therapist can help the child to build flexible and enduring coping skills, to take age-appropriate risks, to cultivate courageous behaviour, and to increase resilience through overcoming obstacles.
If you notice that your child is exhibiting one or more signs of anxiety, we recommend consulting one of our clinicians who specializes in children’s mental health to discuss your options for effective treatment.
By: Zoë Laksman, Psy.D, C.Psych and Laura Clarridge, Ph.D.
Zoë Laksman has practiced as a Registered Clinical Psychologist at The Clinic on Dupont since 2007. Laura Clarridge is a certified executive coach who helps her clients find fulfilling educational and career pathways. Their backgrounds and training have shaped their interest in promoting improved psychological health, interpersonal functioning and wellness. They work together as a clinical team and as the developers of The Clinic on Dupont’s online presence.