How to recognize anxiety in children and help them cope

Updated: Sep. 10, 2020 at 4:42 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Anxiety is real and a part of being human, that’s according to Dr. Joseph Grizzaffi, child-adolescent Psychiatrist at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Grizzaffi wants to make sure parents understand as we go through so many changes in life. He says open communication with children is important.

Some students are headed back to the classroom after starting the year by learning virtually, while some continue to learn from home. A change in routine could be difficult for a child to quickly master.

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He says if anxiety becomes too intense for children, it can become a problem.

The first indication could be a change in behavior, experts say. Perhaps your child will become more restless, bite their clothes, or pace.

Experts say for younger kids, the uneasiness could be there, but they don’t know what it means. That’s when parents should sit down and ask direct questions like, ‘How are you feeling? Do you feel nervous? or Do you feel scared?’

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Your child might also have questions about the pandemic and events happening around the world. Experts say you shouldn’t shield children from the truth even though it is a natural instinct to try to protect them from it.

However, don’t go overboard to shield information about what’s going on.

“Children are very intuitive and know something is not right. The unknown causes a great deal of anxiety. So in this kind of situation, if the parent gives some type of information to the child of what’s going on and some reassurance that things are taken care of, that’s a lot better. The child may still have some anxiety but it’s a lot less than just totally having no clue,” Dr. Grizzaffi says.

He says reassure your child that their feelings are understandable. That could help them work through the process.

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Developing a structured routine can also help a child cope with anxiety. The experts say if your child/children are virtually learning, make sure to have scheduled playtime throughout the day.

Even if your child seems as if everything is okay, monitor and ask questions anyway.

“If your child looks perfectly fine that’s great, but when it’s opportune ask your child, ‘how are you doing. How are you feeling?’ You might be surprised there might be more there than you pick up on,” Dr. Grizzaffi says.

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