Anxiety in children
While summer offers preschool and elementary school children a welcome break and chances to navigate new friendships and activities, it can trigger anxiety in children upset by unstructured time, changes in routine and friend groups, and transitions involving new faces and places. Separation anxiety, social anxiety, and specific phobias are instantly recognizable: a sobbing child clings to a parent, refusing to set foot inside day care; a socially anxious child worries about attending a birthday party because “nobody will play with me;” or a child is so terrified by insects that simple summer fun like a nature stroll, digging in the dirt, or a picnic in the park is impossible. Common symptoms of anxiety in children Thumping heart, rapid breathing, sweating, tense muscles, nausea, and dread are familiar symptoms of anxiety that accompany a “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction triggered by real or imagined threats, like a snarling dog or new social experience. Anxious children may be clingy, startle easily, cry or have tantrums, sleep poorly, and have headaches or stomachaches. But anxiety is not all bad. “It can motivate us, or help us avoid danger,” says Dr. Mona Potter, medical director of McLean Anxiety Mastery Program and McLean Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services. “The problem is when anxiety gets out of hand and makes decisions for us that are no longer helpful — maybe even paralyzing.” By that point, normal anxie...
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