Social anxiety in children

Information to help children of all ages cope with anxiety.

Little boy biting thumb

Anxiety in young children occurs when a fear or thought becomes recurring or constant and affects their school work, life at home and relationships with friends. Anxiety is often related to a fear of failure, such as when an older child is overly worried about taking a test. There are several signs a child may be suffering from anxiety.

Some of the most obvious signs of anxiety include:

  • Refusal to attend school or sleepovers
  • Unable to talk in certain social situations
  • Nightmares
  • Tantrums

Older children may experience physical symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweatiness
  • Stomachaches, nausea, cramps, vomiting
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Poor concentration

Anxiety disorders will typically develop around the age of 6. A child’s brain acts differently when they suffer from anxiety. With treatment, kids can overcome anxiety but, unfortunately, it is not sought in most situations. The earlier a child receives help, the better. Treating an anxiety can be challenging as most children have more than one form. For example, they may have social anxiety as well as a fear of heights. These problems can continue into adulthood if left untreated.

There are several options for treating anxiety in children of all ages, including therapy and a variety of different medications. Consulting your child’s pediatrician is an important first step in helping your child manage and overcome their anxiety. One effective way to help children is to teach them to recognize the signs of when their anxiety is occurring and develop positive coping skills and strategies.

Michigan State University Extension offers the following suggestions in helping your child cope with their anxiety:

  • Provide a safe and reliable routine.
  • Pay attention to your child’s feelings.
  • Stay calm when the child is anxious.
  • Praise accomplishments.
  • Encourage self-esteem and confidence.
  • Above all, listen to your child sincerely when they are experiencing anxiety.

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