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Anxiety in Children – Does my child need therapy?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, every point in our life we have had moments of feeling anxious. Remember that test that you were sure you were going to fail or your first school dance? But when anxiety starts to rule our lives, it’s time to do something about it. Anxiety in children can look a little different than adults and has some developmental impacts. Chances are you are a parent reading this wondering how to help your child, we are here to support. 

Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

When we think of anxiety we often think of sweaty palms, racing heart, non stop thoughts running through our mind. But with kids anxiety can sometimes be hard to see, they learn what the world wants of them and often are better at masking than most adults.

  • Physical symptoms:
    • Chronic headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue
    • Behavioral changes: 
      • Increased irritability, have trouble sleeping, avoiding social situations, or engaging in compulsive behaviors.
    • Emotional symptoms:
      • Noticing a nervousness in your child, feeling scared or worried. 
      • Trouble with focus in and out of the classroom 
      • Panic attacks will be where you see daily anxiety manifested into one overwhelming episode
    • Cognitive symptoms: 
      • High perfectionism, often feeling like they are not enough, need to do/study/read more. These are the children whose behaviors often look mature for their age. Often constantly on edge that something bad will happen. 

How Therapy Can Help

Sometimes anxiety can be worked on individually, if it is not too high some kids will talk with their parents about it, have it normalized and be able to move forward. Often times kids struggle to have this conversation because they think something is wrong with them or that they will get in trouble. Having a therapist can be a safe place for your child to get feedback and support from a trusted adult. 

There are many different types of therapy that might be helpful: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps children identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety. It can also help children learn coping skills and develop resilience in the face of stressful situations.
  • Play therapy allows children to express their feelings and experiences through play, which can be less intimidating and more enjoyable for them. Play therapy also uses different parts of the brain and can be especially helpful for overthinkers and over-rationalizers. 
  • Family therapy helps families understand and support the child’s needs and can also help improve communication and relationships within the family.
  • Brainspotting can be supportive to kids as it helps them move through any tangled wires in the brain. Adults take time with brainspotting but kids are able to process through things much faster because of the stage of development that their brain is in. 

When should I seek out therapy?

We strongly believe that normalizing therapy in the home can have a huge benefit on children. They recognize that it is okay to struggle, okay to need someone else to support and they learn how to express and feel their feelings at a young age. This usually means they need less time in therapy when they do attend and tend to get more out of it.

If you are notiving your child struggle, they are having a hard time managing it, explore it with them. We encourage that children are a part of the phone consultations or searches to find a therapist. This way they find someone they are connected to, this eliminates a lot of the fear right from the start. 

Sirina Shepherd, LCSW
Individual Psychotherapist
Empowerment Within LLC 

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