My own daughter had anxiety which I started to notice was higher than my own or even her friends. I wish I had known what I know now, about anxiety in children and that she would not outgrow it as she grew older. In fact, it actually got worse to the point where she became depressed when she was 9 years old. It took several more years for her to get the help she needed. She told me herself that she wished I had taken her to get help when she was 9 and I regret this greatly.
Thankfully she is getting the help she needs now for her anxiety and depression. I hope if you find your child has anxiety which she struggles with, even if you are not sure it is above the norm, you will take her to a physician or health professional, to have her assessed.
Do you think your preschooler or grade school child might be struggling with anxiety?
Here are signs of anxiety in a young child. My daughter had many of these signs. I have highlighted the ones I remember she had.
Physical Signs of Anxiety
- Can become fidgety, restless, distracted or hyperactive ( even if she does not have ADHD)
- Frequently complains of stomachaches or headaches, even though there’s no medical reason for them
- Constantly tenses her muscles
- Has difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Won’t use restrooms except at home
- Refuses to eat snacks or lunch at daycare or school
- Starts to sweat or shake in intimidating situations
Emotional Signs of Anxiety
- Has extreme test anxiety
- Acts extremely sensitive
- Has phobias ( about cats, dogs, bees etc) and exaggerated fears (natural disasters like hurricanes, or tornadoes etc)
- Is afraid of making even little mistakes
- Cries often
- Worries about things that are far ahead in the future ( a child in Grade 2 is worried about starting Grade 7 etc)
- Becomes grouchy or angry without any clear reason
- Has panic attacks (or is afraid of having panic attacks)
- Is afraid people will find out about his attention or learning and issues (much more so than other kids with similar issues)
- Gets distracted from playing by her fears and worries
- Is worried or afraid during drop-offs (at school, daycare, relatives’ homes, etc.)
- Has frequent nightmares about losing a parent or loved one.
- Is starting to have tantrums or meltdowns
- Has obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors (counting, hand washing, finger tapping, etc.)
Behavioral Signs of Anxiety
- Asks “what if?” constantly (“What if our cruise ship sinks ?”)
- Stays inside, often by themselves at recess or lunch
- Refuses to go to school
- Avoids participating during circle time or other class activities.
- Remains preoccupied or silent when she’s expected to work with others
- Refuses to speak to strangers or peers after school or on weekends ( birthday parties, extracurricular activities etc)
- Refuses to speak to strangers or peers in restaurants, stores etc
- Constantly seeks approval from parents, friends, or teachers
- Becomes angry or emotional when separating from loved ones or parents
- Says “I can’t do it!” without a real reason
Again, I wish I knew about these signs of anxiety, some of which I saw in my child. If she had received some help when she was little, she would have developed some strong coping skills to help herself. Her anxiety only got worse and she now has to learn how to cope with the anxiety in a healthier way, which is harder for her as a teen. Still she is fabulous and is working hard at changing her unproductive or non-existent coping skills.