Red Flags For Anxiety: A Parent’s Guide by Alyssa Maiuri, M.S.

As our children and adolescents navigate a new school year either remotely, fully in-person, or a hybrid model, it is likely they have mixed emotions about going back. For some, they may voice their anxiety about this new year. For others, it may be more difficult to discuss these feelings, or they are not sure exactly what is going on. There has been an increase in individuals’ health related anxiety as a result of this virus. Your role as a parent has likely changed dramatically over the last 6 months. You have been teacher, doctor, maybe even playmate! To help your children transition to this new school year, it will be important to keep an eye on signs and symptoms that may be related to anxiety.

Notable Changes in Behavior – For children and adolescents who have difficulty verbalizing or understanding their feelings, they often show us through their actions. When we notice a change in our child’s behavior, our initial thought is “What is wrong?” One example of children can tell us about their anxiety is through a lack of or decreased engagement in normally enjoyable activities. Below are more examples of how children express their anxiety.

Frequent Meltdowns – For some children, especially younger children, they may try to mask their anxiety while out, but eventually need an outlet. That is typically at home where they feel the most comfortable. It also may be challenging for them to understand just how they’re feeling, and this is their way of saying “something doesn’t feel right.”

Physical Complaints – Anxiety can show itself with a wide variety of physical symptoms, which may be challenging to discern from other ailments, especially during our current global health crisis. Some common symptoms may be, tummy aches, shortness of breath, racing heart, dizziness, and headaches. Keep track of any patterns of these symptoms and the timing.

Sleeping Problems – Problems with falling asleep, staying asleep, night terrors/nightmares, and sleep walking can all be signs that your child is experiencing anxiety. Be mindful of the onset and whether or not your child struggled with one or more of these problems prior to a trigger (e.g., the pandemic).

School Refusal – This refusal may also appear in a few different ways. Your child could experience physical symptoms such as a tummy ache often before heading to school. They may be more vocal and be defiant when it is time to go to school or have tantrums as you’re heading out the door. You may also notice they have more difficulty separating from you.

Remember, you are the expert when it comes to your child! If you notice changes in your child’s behavior use some of the tools in the links below to help them understand and cope with these strong feelings. The most important thing you can teach them is that it is ok to ask for help!

Sneaky Signs of Childhood Anxiety

Early Identification Treatment To Avoid Covid-19 Related Health Anxieties in Children

How Families Can Support Kids’ Mental Health During the Pandemic

How to Recognize Anxiety in Children and Help Them Cope

To Safeguard Children’s Mental Health During Covid-19, Parent’s Must Look After Their Own