October is National Emotional Wellness Month. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), emotional wellness is the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times. Children are no strangers to stress, especially in the wake of Covid.
Unlike adults, children don’t have years of life experience developing coping skills and are often more vulnerable to anxiety than we think. Fears and worries are typical in children. But a more significant problem may arise when these feelings interfere with school, friends, home life, and playtime.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are signs that parents and caretakers can look out for when it comes to recognizing anxiety. Symptoms in children may include trouble sleeping and physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and stomachaches are also common. Not all children will exhibit physical signs of stress and anxiety, but many may become angry, irritable, or withdrawn.
What can adults do to help children when they appear anxious?
Parents naturally want to protect children and make them feel better. As tempting as it may be, the goal isn’t to eliminate everything that causes stress and anxiety but, instead, to help children manage their feelings.
The first step is talking with your child. Be patient, honor their space, and don’t ask leading questions. Empathize without agreeing to their fears by reminding them it is okay to be scared. Saying something like, “I know you’re afraid of going to a new school, and I understand,” will let your child know they are supported. Having a plan can be an effective, healthy way to handle anxiety. Talk through a scenario of what your child will do when those anxious feelings surface. Don’t promise them they won’t feel fearful. Express your confidence in them and their ability to manage their emotions.
Many schools have implemented SEL or social-emotional learning programs. When researching and choosing a school, ask how the school supports mental health. Smaller class sizes can be less stressful, encourage participation, and offer more opportunities to build supportive peer relationships.
Friends, family, and educators can also be excellent support teams in helping adults navigate their children’s anxiety. If you need additional guidance, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician.
Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore