Stress and Anxiety in Children: When Parents Should Act
Written by Loretta Blevins, Well-Mamas Counseling, APPC 4144
Parents should be aware of the difference between behaviors related to stress and those that anxiety can cause. Stress related behaviors tend to be easier to change and can often help children develop healthy coping skills, with caregiver support.
Moderate anxiety is normal. It can help a child achieve in school or be alert in an emergency. However, caregivers and supportive adults (teacher, school staff, etc…) should be aware of what behaviors require additional interventions from a health provider.
When anxiety causes extreme behaviors, parents should be concerned. These are some of the behaviors to watch carefully, as they can be signs of deeper issues but the presence of these behaviors does not mean that a diagnosis is imminent:
· Recurring, potentially self-harming behaviors related to grooming or sensory stimulation:
hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting, skin biting, nose picking, as well as cheek
biting and joint cracking.
· Continuous unwanted obsessions or worries and the repetitive physical or mental
behaviors called compulsions (ordering or arranging objects; turning each light off,
before being able to leave home) that children may use to relieve their anxiety.
· Children that worry all of the time about being separated from parents or home.
· Children that fear social and/or performance situations because they worry about doing
something embarrassing or being negatively judged by others.
Parents can help their children when they notice any of these behaviors, by making sure the child is assessed by a pediatrician or mental health clinician. If you notice several of the above, ask your child’s doctor to perform an in-depth screening of your child’s mental and physical health to rule out a serious concern or determine an early intervention. These behavioral changes due to increased anxious experiences in children are treatable and parents can receive support.