Written by: Noah Smith
Anxiety is a difficult thing to deal with, but when it affects kids, it can be devastating. That’s why it’s important to detect it early.
Many young people today are living with anxiety and other disorders which can affect their health, their performance at school, and their relationships. As a parent, it’s extremely difficult to watch your loved one struggle with something they can’t control, something that leaves them feeling an array of emotions and can even lead to depression or other mood disorders.
One of the biggest contributors to anxiety in young people is the fact that they are constantly “plugged in”. Being connected through social media and other online outlets can be a good thing, but for some, it can cause daily worries beyond their control. Bullying, a constantly refreshing newsfeed, and the pressure to fit in are just a few of the things your child may be worried about on a daily basis, so it’s important to keep up with their movements online and educate yourself on the best ways to help them stay healthy.
Here are just a few of the ways you can help your child with anxiety.
Limit screen time
Many kids these days either have their own smartphone or tablet, or they spend time on the computer when they’re home. It’s a good idea to limit your child’s screen time, not just for their mental health, but for their physical health, as well. Spending hours looking at a phone or laptop screen can interrupt sleep habits, and we all know that young people need their rest. It can be difficult to monitor a teenager’s screen time, so you might make a rule about everyone putting their phones into a basket as soon as they get home, where they’ll stay until after dinner.
If screen time is interfering with homework or concentration, and your child’s grades are slipping, it might be time to have your child turn in their tablet, kindle, iPhone, iPad or iPod in an effort to improve concentration.
Hiring a tutor for your child may also be another way to end homework battles and work on a particular skill. Tutoring can be a wonderful way for your child to get back on track and build up self-esteem at the same time.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your child about what his online habits are and who he’s talking to, especially if he’s playing online games that include interaction with other players in real time. Have a conversation about how to stay safe online--never give personal information out, come to you if a stranger becomes inappropriate, never send photos to someone else--and make sure you’re aware of all websites and social media sites your child is using. For kids of a certain age, you can place parental controls on the computer to ensure there’s no chance of them stumbling across an inappropriate site.
Educate your child about bullying
Social media can be harsh for kids, and online bullying is a very real problem that kids face today. Talk to your child about what it means and how they can respond if they feel they’re being bullied, but don’t forget to make sure they know how not to be a bully themselves. Sometimes, a hurtful comment can skew out of control, especially in the context of an informal messaging medium where kids feel safe to say whatever they want.
Unfortunately, texts, group chats, etc, can give your child the impression of anonymity. However, as we both know, our child's name is attached to their message, and that message can be forwarded and shared with multiple people and very quickly.
Remember that anxiety can take many forms, and it can usher in depression and other serious disorders that require professional help. If you feel your child is exhibiting symptoms of depression--changes in sleeping or eating habits, withdrawing from friends and family, experiencing mood swings or sadness--talk to his doctor right away.
Noah loves sharing his travel advice on WellnessVoyager.com. He tries to take one big trip each year. He’s currently saving up to backpack through Europe.
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles