Health & Science

Majority Of Children Are Regularly Battling Anxiety—This Is What Parents Can Do

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A study confirms what many parents have noticed: Today’s kids are more stressed out than ever, with the majority of them regularly battling anxiety.

The survey of 2,000 parents of children from the ages of 3 to 18 was conducted by Channel Mum. Parents were asked about their children’s mental health, and more than six out of 10 respondents reported that their children display signs of feeling worry, unease, or fear on a regular basis. The average age of anxiety onset is just seven years old.

What causes this anxiety?

According to the survey, most parents feel they know what is causing their child’s distress. The most significant cause reported (at 40 percent) was school related, with parents stating that just attending school was enough to stress kids out. That trigger was followed closely by trying new things; fear of failure and “doing anything outside their normal routine” were next in line, each affecting about 30 percent of children. More than a fifth of parents suspected their child’s anxiety was due to bullying and only 6 percent admitted to having no idea what was causing their child’s issues.  

All that stress really takes its toll. Forty seven percent of the parents who reported their children are battling anxiety said their kids can quickly become unreasonably angry or irritable, and just under one third of suffering kids generally become “out of control” when experiencing an anxiety attack. Physical symptoms included kids scratching their own skin, getting stomach aches, making frequent trips to the bathroom, and pulling out their own hair.

How do parents deal with it?

“Children today are possibly the most stressed generation ever as there is so much pressure piled onto them. From feeling they need to succeed academically to social media to heightened awareness of their body image, there is round-the-clock comparison with others from a very young age,” says Emma Kenny, resident psychologist at Channel Mum. “However parents are often the best judge of whether a symptom is serious as they are in tune with their child and know when their behavior changes. If a child’s behaviour seems particularly unusual, or is worsening without apparent reason, it’s a wise idea to seek professional help.”

Parents surveyed reported several different ways they are dealing with their children’s anxiety. Most try to avoid activities and situations that they know trigger their child’s stress and anxiety, but when the issue comes up in conversation a troubling 70 percent said their typical response is “don’t worry about it.” One fifth of parents avoid taking their child to the doctor out of fear they’ll be judged. Experts warn not to avoid or ignore the problem, though. It’s important to affirm their emotions and discuss their stress with a calm and caring approach. 

With so many of today’s kids battling anxiety, what can parents do to calm these strong emotions?

Ten things you can say to calm an anxious child

For parents who see their stressed-out kids suffering but don’t know what to say that might be helpful, try one of the prompts below to get the conversation started.

Role playing can work wonders to prepare kids for tricky situations.
Sometimes kids can express themselves with art more easily than with words.
Love, hugs, cuddles, and feeling safe with you can help soothe their worries.
It might not be something that would stress you out, so be sure to listen with an open mind to how they feel.
It can be a dance party, a bike ride or walk around the block, or just some gentle stretches. Physical activity can help release some anxiety.
Everyone feels more empowered with knowledge—that goes for kids, too.
Knowing what YOU do when you’re nervous can be a really helpful touchstone, plus make your child feel less alone.
A sense of gratitude is proven to make people more optimistic and better problem solvers.
Reassuring them that they’re doing great and you’re in their corner does wonders.
Let your child choose so that they feel some control over the situation.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -