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What should I do about anxiety symptoms in my child?

May 22, 2015 1:44 pm Published by

Children feel stress.  Responding  to it productively is a learned behavior.  So it is not unusual for a child to struggle with anxiety symptoms in their young lives.  Anxiety can present itself in many ways.  In younger children it can be poor sleep, decreased appetite, delayed milestones, and frequent tantrums.  In a school aged child or teen it can present as tantrums, poor friendships, repetitive behaviors, unreasonable fears, stomach pains, and school troubles.

If your child is struggling with anxiety the first thing to do is to review the basics.  Is there an unreasonable amount of stress on your child and what can you do to lift some of it?  Too many activities, parental fighting, chronic illness etc these are all common problems that parents can control.

Sleep plays a big role in the way our brain responds to problems.  Take a few minutes to think about your child’s sleep habits.  Does he/she go to bed on time?  Do they sleep restfully?  Is anything disrupting their sleep?  Teens frequently take daytime naps or sleep in on weekends.. This is very disruptive to sleep patterns and should be avoided.

Diet and exercise also are important.  You can control what your child eats by purchasing healthy foods and keeping the junk out of the house.  Set limits on video games and computer time and turn them off and go outside and play or get exercise.  Consider getting a gym membership for your older child, many insurance companies will pay for them.

If you have covered all the basics and your child is still struggling then it is important to go to the next step.  If your child’s anxiety has become disruptive to daily life then it warrants further investigation.  The next step is behavioral therapy.  On the back of your insurance card is a number for mental health services.  Call that number and get recommendations for child/teen therapists.  Consider committing to 4-5 therapy sessions to work on anxieties and coping strategies.

If you have pursued therapy and the symptoms are not getting any better than it may be time to discuss medication.  At Lancaster Pediatrics the physicians are comfortable prescribing anxiety medicines for children when needed.  However, this takes much discussion and consideration which of course takes time.  If you feel that your child needs an anxiety medicine please make an appointment with your preferred physician in our office.  Because of the heavy time requirements of this type of problem it may take 3-4 weeks until you are able to get an appointment.  In the meantime continue the above suggestions, communicate with your child’s school and other care givers, and concentrate on helping your child through this tough time.  Studies support that most anxieties are transient and with time and the right interventions they will usually subside.

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This post was written by Lancaster Pediatrics