Children & Anxiety: The Unwanted & Heartbreaking Duo


This seven-letter word is one of the most unsuspecting destroyers of confidence, self-esteem, and overall self out there. As the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, points out, there are several different types of anxiety disorders commonly found among children:

  • Separation anxiety: being afraid when away from parents
  • Phobias: having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor
  • Social anxiety: Being very afraid of school or other places where there are people
  • General anxiety: Being worried about the future and about bad things happening
  • Panic disorder: Having retreated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy

As anyone who’s been around a youth experiencing one of the above anxiety disorders knows, and the CDC agrees, children can present their anxiety by way of fear, worry, irritability, anger, sleep difficulties, fatigue, headaches, or stomach problems. But the issue doesn’t stop there. The way someone expresses or doesn’t express their anxiety–some youth try to hide it–directly affects their relationships. From home life to school life to social life to work life, every part of a youth’s world can be affected by their anxiety, especially if their anxiety is severe.

Regardless of what side of the Great Mask Debate of 2020 you sit on, we can all agree that the current world isn’t helping youth navigate and minimize anxiety. If anything, the COVID-19 conversation and far-reaching tentacles of the pandemic are increasing anxiety among youth at an alarming rate. Now is exactly the right time to learn proven strategies for dealing with anxiety among youth.

Strategies to Help Youth Combat Depression suggests the following strategies to combat anxiety:

  • Set clear expectations & create appropriate benchmarks to meet those expectations
    • It’s important to show youth that they can work and live with their anxiety. For example, if parties are overwhelming for a child, consider going to parties with fewer stimuli, such as no bounce houses and fewer people, instead of refraining from parties altogether.
  • Let your child worry
    • “No child ever stopped worrying because a parent said, “Don’t worry!”, or “Relax!” In fact, worry serves an important function in our lives. Without some amount of worry, we wouldn’t stop to consider actual dangers that do threaten us. Give your child uninterrupted time with you each day to vent and brainstorm solutions together.”
  • Avoid avoidance
    • “…avoiding triggers of anxiety won’t help your child learn to cope. If your child becomes anxious around dogs, for example, crossing the street each time you encounter a dog or staying away from all dogs will only validate that anxious thought. It sends the message that all dogs are dangerous. It’s better to desensitize your child to triggers of anxiety by taking small steps. Try looking at pictures of different breeds online and talking about what feelings they trigger. Next, watch dogs at play at a park from a safe distance. Finally, ask to visit with a calm, older dog of a friend or a therapy dog. By taking small steps, kids can learn to work through their fears and worries.”
  • Practice reframing
    • “Anxious kids tend to engage in a variety of cognitive distortions such as black and white thinking and overgeneralizing. Carving out regular time to work on positive reframing empowers your anxious child to take control over his anxious thoughts. It works like this:
      1. Name a worry floating around in your brain right now.
      2. What is the worry telling you?
      3. Let’s break it down and see if that worry is 100% right.
      4. How can we take that worry thought and change it to a positive thought?”
    • gives this wonderful example of reframing:
      “For example, your child voices a fear that the kids in their class don’t like them. Why do they think this? Because a boy in class laughed when they didn’t know the answer, and now they are scared that their classmates think they are dumb. Help them break down the reality of their situation: “I answer questions in class every day. A friend always sits with me at lunch. I play with my friends at recess.” Now reframe the situation: “It hurt my feelings when the boy laughed, but I have other good friends in my class.”
  • Help them build a coping kit
    • Make a list of coping strategies for times when anxiety spikes, and write them down. Possible strategies: Deep breathing. Progressive muscle relaxation. Stress ball. Write it out. Talk back to worries and reframe thoughts. Get help from an adult.
  • Get Back to Basics
    • Focus on your child’s health needs: Sleep. Healthy meals. Plenty of water. Downtime to decompress. Outdoor free play. Daily exercise (riding bikes, playing at the park, etc.).
  • Empathize often
    • Empathizing “normalizes what they experience and helps them understand that they aren’t alone, and you will guide them through it.”

In addition to the above-mentioned strategies, there are supplements that are clinically proven to aid in the reduction or elimination of symptoms of anxiety, such as EMPowerplus Advanced. And a bonus with EMPowerplus Advanced, beyond the fact that it is the most studied micronutrient formula in the world, is that it is clinically proven to reduce or eliminate symptoms of depression and mood swings too.

Anxiety is real, but there are strategies to help youth deal with it the best they can. But while you’re helping your youth deal with their anxiety, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. It’s not uncommon for caretakers of anxious children to become anxious about their children being anxious. It’s a vicious cycle. While you’re busy helping youth learn strategies for their anxiety, remember to be a good role model for self-care and anxiety strategies yourself.

Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach