Putting two and two together to figure out your child may be suffering from anxiety can be extremely difficult. Kids don't have the capabilities to come straight out and say how they are feeling inside. You won't hear your child say, "I don't want to go out and play because I'm feeling anxious," or "I don't want to go to school today, I'm too anxious."
A report on Children's Mental Health done in 2018 found that "anxiety affects 30% of children and adolescents, yet 80% never get help. Untreated anxiety disorders are linked to depression, school failure and a two-fold increase in risk of substance use disorder,"
Fortunately, there are some helpful tips to help parents recognize the early signs, actions or phrases that their child may use. These signs can be an indication they may be suffering from anxiety. Please have your doctor do a check-up first to rule out any other medical problems that might need to be addressed.
Children, when they are feeling anxious, will usually say their "head hurts," rather than saying "I have a headache."
Stomach aches are a common complaint from children with anxiety. Children suffering from anxiety get that tingling nervous belly like we've all experienced at some stage or other. A nervous stomach can make them feel uneasy and unsure. But when it comes to children, explaining this sensation or feeling. It can be difficult to express. They will complain that "my tummy hurts," which, in a sense is what is going on for them.
These can be very random pains and very general. There maybe be no specific pinpointed area, they might say "My legs hurt," or "My body hurts."
When your child is feeling anxious, or something is bothering them, the feelings can be so intense and full on that they don't know how to express them appropriately. One of the easiest emotions for a child to express is anger, so when they are feeling overwhelmed, they tend to burst into anger. If you were to ask your child why they are so angry, they more than likely would not know the reason other than, they're just angry. But try and dig a little deeper with them, help them untangle some of their thoughts and get to the bottom of the anger.
A child's first defense when they are anxious about something is to avoid it altogether. They will do all that they can to get out of a situation or place if it causes them great anxiety. Excuses for not going, sudden aches, feeling unwell, etc Pay heed to all of these things and see if you can make connections to places and your child's reaction, it will help hone in on what the real reason is for their avoidance.
It's not uncommon for kids to be shy when around other adults, they often stay in the background and let you do the talking. However, the report found that children showing distress and anxiety often get put into the category of being shy with the assumption that they will "grow out of it." If they hide behind your back looking at the floor, or remain with their heads bowed in silence around strangers, it's vital to be aware of this.
If you find your child flat out refuses to do what you ask, especially if they are usually a child that doesn't oppose you. Then anxiety may be the reason they show signs of stubbornness. If they refuse, for example, to put on their shoes, it's not always as straight forward as they don't want to put on their shoes. It can hide a deeper meaning, "I don't want to put my shoes on because then I will have to go to school and I'm anxious about school."
If you notice any of these signs and they seem to relate to you and your child, talk to your child's pediatrician to discuss the next steps you can take. Just noticing the deeper reasons for your child's outbursts and sudden aches, is a massive step in the right direction. If you talk to your child and help them understand, it helps gives them the words to understand and to be able to express their true feelings to you more easily. If you open the door for them on talking about their anxieties, you immediately lift so much anxiety off their shoulders by simply having the conversation with them.