How kids deal with anxiety

What does it mean anxiety disorder

Following The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (also known as the DSM-5), these are the criteria that clinical professionals are looking for the right diagnosis:

  1. The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.
  2. The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.
  3. The anxiety and worry are accompanied with at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only one symptom is necessary for a diagnosis):
  • Edginess or restlessness
  • Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual
  • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
  • Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
  • Increased muscle aches or soreness
  • Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)

As children, it can often be difficult to communicate what we’re feeling. Emotions could be difficult to understand and it could be not easy to explore their body and sensations. They might think whatever’s going on in their head is “normal,” so asking for help never even crosses their minds. 

While I was wondering how to describe in a simple way what does it mean for a kid to deal with these symptoms, I discover this article on The Mighty where they asked to their mental healthy community to share things they said as a kid others may not have realised were code for: “I’m anxious.”

Apparently, there are common phrases that could work as “code red”.

  • “I am tired.”
  • “What’s wrong with me?”
  • “You do it./Don’t make me do it.”
  • “Can’t we stay home?/I want to go home.”
  • “Can you turn on the hallway light for me at night?”
  • “I am not feeling well!/My stomach hurts.”

Here are some advice on how your kids can cope with their anxiety in the real world.

  1. Teach them how to breath: have them breathe all the way in, tell them to feel the air inside of their lungs building them up and making them feel big. Have them feel the air leaving, and the stress along with it. Do this with them not just when they are already stressing, but try it when you’re also just sitting around doing nothing too.
  2. Let them draw/colour: they have more free time than us. Today is possible to find the colouring book everywhere and they can move their hands and focus on that instead of the anxiety.
  3. Talk about it: as i said at the beginning of this article, is never easy for them to understand what are they feeling. Consequently, it could be difficult for your children to come and talk with you. Modelling is everything. Kids will start to see that even though you are overwhelmed, you figure out a way through.

4. Change the scenery: go into a different room, take a walk, or even just open a window. Sometimes a little sunshine is all they need to get over whatever is eating away at them. You can even take this to another level if your kids is really feeling the anxiety.

These are just tricks, but don’t feel scared and try to do the best you can, and if you are worried about their health, remember that ask for help to someone is not a problem. We are all humans, and for our kids we are super hero, so let’s try to be a real hero and help them when they need us.

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