Mindpath Health releases Supporting Children with Anxiety: A Guide for Parents
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SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 24, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Parenting is a journey filled with joys and challenges, and one challenge many parents face today is helping their children manage anxiety. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in children, affecting about 7% of youth aged 3-17, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Anxiety disorders can affect a child's overall well-being and daily functioning, and understanding how to support your child can make a difference in their ability to cope and thrive. We explore effective strategies and techniques parents can employ to help children navigate anxiety, fostering resilience and emotional well-being.

Paying close attention to your child's behavior and tendencies is crucial for identifying potential anxiety. Anxiety can manifest in different ways, some include:

Physical symptoms:
  • Bedwetting
  • Chest pain
  • Decreased appetite or eating more than developmentally expected
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Stomachaches

Emotional symptoms:
  • Avoidance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive crying
  • Excessive worry
  • Irritability, bursts of anger, or isolated tantrums
  • Overly clingy behavior

Parents should acknowledge their concerns and create a safe and open environment when these arise. How parents address their child's anxiety can affect how children cope. Fostering a sense of trust and stability empowers your child to manage their anxiety effectively. Ways parents can help children with anxiety:

At home:
  • Practice active listening and validate the child's emotions. Listen actively to your child's fears and worries without judgment or interruption. Let them express and validate their feelings, showing empathy and understanding. If you are able, express your anxious concerns and fears. This helps your child know it is okay to feel this way.
  • Teach coping mechanisms. Introduce relaxation techniques as an effective method to help your child manage anxiety. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery can effectively calm their mind and body during anxious moments. Practice these techniques together and encourage your child to use them independently when needed.
  • Establish predictable routines. Children thrive on predictability; it creates a sense of stability and security. Establish set routines for daily activities like mealtimes, homework, and bedtime. Include them in conversations when attending a new event or adding to their schedule. Explain who will be there, why it is being added, etc. Having a structured schedule provides a sense of control for children with anxiety.
  • Be realistic with your child. Providing assurances that your child will perform well on upcoming tests or presentations may seem loving and encouraging. However, this can cause children to question things further and develop self-doubt if things turn out poorly. Instead, tell them that no matter their grade or performance, you will be proud since they prepared well. Tell your child that sometimes, when we feel nervous, we mess up. Discussing their thoughts and fears can help your child manage anxiety.
  • Limit exposure to potential stress-inducing environments. Identify and limit exposure to situations that could trigger your child's anxiety. This can include reduced screen time, a quiet homework environment, or limited exposure to news or media that could overwhelm your child.
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle. Encourage children to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and set a routine to improve sleep hygiene. Physical well-being is crucial in managing anxiety, reducing stress, and promoting overall well-being.

In public:
  • Encourage your child to engage in social activities. Support your child in building positive friendships and relationships. Encourage them to participate in sports, clubs, or groups that align with their interest and spend time with friends.
  • Foster a supportive school environment. Partner with your child's school and communicate with teachers and counselors about your child's anxiety. Share strategies that work well at home. Encourage the school to accommodate extra support and breaks during stressful situations or designate a safe space for your child to sit when needed.

In the October 2022 evidence report, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended screening children 8 to 18 for anxiety and 12 to 18 for depression and suicide risk.

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If you suspect your child has anxiety or needs professional help, talk with their primary care physician or a mental health professional, such as a child psychiatrist. Together, they can provide expert guidance, individualized strategies, and therapeutic interventions tailored to your child's needs, like medication management or therapy.

Visit mindpath.com to learn more about your child and adolescent mental health care treatment options.

This article was written by Zishan Khan, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Mindpath Health in Frisco, Texas.

Mindpath Health is a leading provider of high-quality outpatient behavioral health services, offering in-person and telehealth visits. We coordinate care with primary care physicians and referring providers to ensure a focus on total health. Visit mindpath.com to partner with us.

We have locations in Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. We offer TMS in California, North Carolina, and Florida. Learn how TMS can help here. We offer Mindpath On Demand in North Carolina, providing urgent therapy and psychiatry. Schedule an appointment at mindpath.com.

SOURCE Mindpath Health
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