Anxiety During the Holidays: Recognizing Anxiety in Children
As the holiday season gets under way, stress builds. While we accept the rushed days and the added pressure, children also feel the stress and for those with anxiety, symptoms may worsen. Your child may start having trouble in school, be irritable and find it hard to concentrate. As parents, we may brush aside these signs as just being overwhelmed by the season but being alert to changes in your child's mood can pinpoint any potential problems early.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Children
In an earlier post, Is it Normal Childhood Fears or Is it an Anxiety Disorder, I listed some of the common signs of anxiety in children:
- Fears are excessive for insignificant events.
- Anxiety is accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or insomnia.
- Symptoms of depression, such as insomnia or sleeping more than normal, loss of appetite, or loss of enjoyment in activities they once enjoyed.
- Avoiding activities that provoke anxiety, including not wanting to go to school or participate in school activities
- Easily agitated or over-excited when stressed
- Becomes anxious days or weeks prior to event
- Perfectionism, overly self-critical
- Overly worried that others are not happy with him
Most children will recover from a stressful event within a few days. If you notice any of these signs continuing for several weeks, it may be time to talk with your doctor.
Childhood Anxiety During the Holidays
The late Jerilyn Ross previously wrote that "Schedules packed with events and activities often leave little time for relaxation, leaving both adults and children for increased stress and anxiety. Left unchecked, this can interfere with travel plans, create family tension and prevent family members from fully participating in what should be joyful celebrations." She continues, "Children are particularly vulnerable to stress during the holiday season. They have their own anxieties and they easily pick up those of their parents." In her post, she offers parents ways to help children be more prepared to cope with the hectic season including planning ahead and sticking to a holiday schedule.
For children with social anxiety disorder (SAD), and yes, even young children can suffer from SAD, holiday parties can be difficult. Parties, school plays, group activities and even family get-togethers can be stressful. But as much as these events cause fear, your child may still want to participate, feeling left out and alone when they can't be part of the fun. In a previous post, Social Anxiety During Classroom Holiday Parties, I gave some suggestions to help parents and teachers work with children during social anxiety disorder so they can enjoy the holidays without feeling alone. Some ideas include:
- Creating a quiet corner in the classroom for your child to retreat to when parties become overwhelming
- Have children indirectly participate, such as preparing crafts or snacks
- Keep activities structured, the more children with anxiety know what to expect the better they will be prepared to cope with the situation
- Let the child know what to expect ahead of time
Because children often pick up on their parent's stress, it is important for you, as the parent, to manage your own anxiety, especially during the holiday season. We have some posts to help: