More and more children are struggling with this issue
Living in an uncertain and challenging world may be creating angst for your child. Experts in behavioral medicine are seeing more and more children of all ages struggling with anxiety.
“I am seeing children from as early as age 4 up to 18 who are feeling overwhelmed by the vulnerability they see in the world,” says Dr. Joanna Lindell, a child psychiatrist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “Whether it is the children of police officers, military personnel, immigrants, those living in dangerous neighborhoods, fearful of terrorism, or even just kids seeing it all unfold in the media, their foundation can crack in these uncertain times.”
Dr. Lindell says a child’s foundation is built in the home. “Home is where kids should feel safe and stable,” she says. “If what’s happening in the world is viewed as a threat, it disrupts a child’s life and prompts stress.”
According to Dr. Lindell, parents should view this uncertain world as an opportunity to teach their children coping skills they will use for a lifetime.
“It’s critical that parents model an appropriate, calm and rational way of handling stress,” says Dr. Lindell. “Your children are absorbing what is happening around them. So, that “off-the-cuff” comment you make while watching television is something your child could actually believe. Children are often too young to possess the necessary skills to self-regulate their emotions; therefore, they need guidance from adults on how to manage stress in a healthy way.”
Dr. Lindell offers these tips for parents wanting to reduce anxiety.
- Listen to your children. Encourage them to talk about their fears. (Parents should also note that not all kids will be willing to talk.)
- Validate your child’s feelings and offer facts that may help them better understand the situation. Stay away from negative language.
- Responsibly filter what your children see and hear. Turn off the television and make your home a safe place to be.
- Build confidence in your child. Let them know that he or she and your family can handle anything that comes your way.
“With all the uncertainty out there, now is an important time to center and ground your children,” says Dr. Lindell. “In uncertain times, we can all feel out of control. Your children need to see you in control.”
Dr. Lindell acknowledges that “being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world” and encourages parents to seek help from a professional should anxiety cause significant changes in the daily functioning of either their child and/or themselves.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!