How do you know when a child has been too anxious for too long? TVOParents and the child mental health experts at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre have pulled together the following lists of anxiety-related behaviours for ages 6-11 to help you decide when anxiety has become a problem.
Worry behaviours are divided into three categories below; Typical (not to worry), Monitor (reason to continue monitoring behaviours) and Seek Help (behaviours that may indicate a potential mental health problem). These are only some of the highlights from the ABCs of Mental Health on the Hincks-Dellcrest site. Click here to see the full lists of behaviours and things to do.
The following signs of worry and anxiety are normal and not cause for concern. Click here to see the full list.
- Your child to shows a range of fear and anxiety in response to things happening in his life.
- The child gets upset and anxious following such things as a car accident or a dog bite.
- The child feels fear and anxiety while evaluating things that come into his life that may threaten his safety.
- Your child’s fear response is very strong, but she is able to find a way to overcome the fear in a way that works for her and for others in the situation.
Children can show worry and fear in many different ways throughout their lives. The following behaviours can come and go, but they are reason for continued monitoring to watch for any progression. Click here to see the full list.
- Fretting, tension and anxiety. Changes in mood.
- Preoccupation with stressful situations, e.g. role-playing it over and over and talking it through.
- Self-destructive behaviours, decreased self-esteem.
- Changes in eating habits, occasionally wetting or soiling themselves, changes in sleep patterns.
- Falling grades or diminished interest in school activities.
- A focus or preoccupation with sexual behaviours or talk.
- Changes in social interactions. Aggressive or anti-social behaviour.
- Separation fears, fears of being alone, refusing to try new recreational activities.
- Nail biting, stuttering, grinding of teeth.
- A strong need to be protective of others.
- Overreacting to situations.
The following behaviours are reasons for concern. Click here for the full list of behaviours from Hincks-Dellcrest.
- Worried behaviour that lasts an unusually long period of time, over weeks or months.
- Significant change from previous mood or behaviour.
- A combination of behaviours such as uncharacteristic sad mood along with angry and aggressive outbursts.
- Worries so extreme that no matter what you or others do, your child is unable to be reassured.
- Inability to concentrate on school work.
- Persistent talking about the same fear and refusing to stop.
- Your child is expressing an urgent need for others to help him and avoids the feared object or situation.
- Physical symptoms, such as vomiting or fever.
- Behaviours listed above that are accompanied by significant change in the family environment.
Need Help? What To Do
Many children can exhibit extreme fear responses to new or unusual events, but they can usually use their internal resources to cope and continue on with normal activities. If, however, the fear is persistent and your child, even with help from others, can’t overcome the worry, it’s probably time to get some professional help. Here are some more tips:
- See your doctor or other mental health specialist for help if you child is showing worrisome symptoms.
- Discuss the problem with the child’s teacher and get his or her perspective.
- Ask the teacher to help build a classroom plan to help the child manage her fears at school.
- Celebrate any success the child has with dealing well with his fears.
- Help your child to problem-solve the situations she worries about and to think rationally about the situation.
- If your child is struggling with worry in a situation, ask the child if he can manage on his own or if he would like some help. This shows your child respect and reinforces the idea that he may be able to handle it on hisown.
- Consider whether part of the problem is that your child needs more of your attention.
- Manage your own anxiety. Model emotional control and good problem-solving behaviour.
Find more recommendations for your anxious child in the ABC's of Mental Health section of the Hincks-Dellcrest website.