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Taking a closer look at signs of anxiety in children, as well as the importance of listening to and communicating with the young people in our lives.

When young people are struggling with anxiety, they very often won’t verbalize it. Instead, they might display other signs that appear unrelated but are actually their way of expressing that they’re feeling emotional pain. These signs can be hard to read, and we might dismiss them, thinking nothing of them, or thinking the child might be lying or exaggerating what they’re experiencing. Here are some signs that might not seem indicative of anxiety but that might be young peoples’ way of telling us something is going on.

Children, especially young children, will often say they have a stomach ache when they’re feeling anxious. As adults with anxiety, we know that feeling anxious can often cause us to feel discomfort, uneasiness, nervousness and even pain, which we can feel in our stomachs or elsewhere in our bodies. We might feel a knot or a pit in a stomach. We might feel nervous energy coursing through us. If a child is persistently alerting us to a stomach ache, headache, or some other pain or discomfort, and there isn’t any actual medical problem going on, they might be experiencing anxiety without realizing it. Perhaps they don’t even have the words to describe their sensations.

When children consistently complain about something, such as a new class, a new teacher, a new student at school, or a new activity, chances are there is something going on that is causing them discomfort, uneasiness, or fear. They might be getting bullied at school. They might feel unfairly targeted by a teacher. They might be experiencing social anxiety, therefore struggling in groups and social settings. We want to try not to dismiss their protests as merely being complaints or bad behavior. Something deeper might be going on. It might be time to take a closer look and truly hear what they’re trying to tell us.

Other signs of anxiety in young people are changes in their eating and sleeping habits, a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed, and changes in their work performance. If they suddenly have no appetite or are compulsively overeating, they might be anxious. If they’re having a hard time sleeping, or if they’re sleeping excessively, it might be due to anxiety. If they’re suddenly disinterested in things they once loved to do, if they’re not getting their homework assignments done, if they’re misbehaving at school, or falling behind in their grades or attendance, these are all signs they might be experiencing anxiety.

The best thing we can do for our children is communicate to them often and encourage them to be open and honest with us. We want to develop trust and open lines of communication between us. We also want to help them learn how to identify and verbalize their emotions, so they can feel empowered to get help when they need it. This is part of the process of learning emotional intelligence, and it will serve them for years to come in their own healing journeys.

Riverside Recovery believes in the importance of holistic healing and education, mindfulness and mind-body-spirit wellness. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information on our treatment programs.