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Anxiety Isn’t Just An Adult Problem

During the past year, many family routines were completely upended by the global pandemic,  resulting in increased anxiety in children and adults. For children, going to school changed to sitting in front of a screen. Mom or Dad may have lost a job, contributing to stress in the household. Daily structure for millions of adults and children went out the window. Children need structure and routine. Without them, the world may become scary; they don’t know what’s coming next. 

Anxiety in children isn’t rare 

Add the pandemic to adverse life experiences such as a divorce between Mom and Dad, bullying, or genetic factors that make your child prone to anxiety, and you have a perfect storm for increased anxiety in children. Over 4 million children in the U.S. age 3 to 17 have been diagnosed with anxiety. There are likely millions more who haven’t been diagnosed. 

Signs of anxiety in children

Your child may show varied signs of anxiety. Perhaps she cries when you get ready to leave the house or is having trouble sleeping. She may throw temper tantrums over situations that normally wouldn’t produce them. She may say she has a headache or stomach ache, because she doesn’t understand her feelings and doesn’t have the words to tell you she’s anxious. 

Many children with sensory integration disorder suffer from anxiety. New routines, different surroundings, excess environmental stimuli such as bright lighting or noises, or different textures in clothing or food can bring on anxiety in children with this condition.

The caring staff at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy, with two offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, treats children with anxiety. We evaluate them for sensory processing disorder to determine if that’s the cause of their anxiety.  The good news is that our occupational therapists can help rewire your child’s sensory systems; younger children’s nervous systems are very malleable. No matter the reason, we help your loved one learn to manage her stress and fears so that they no longer interfere with daily living. 

Effective treatments for anxiety in children 

Following are just a few of the many ways we help children manage and reduce anxiety. You as the parent have an important role as well. 

Sensory processing and integration

If your child has sensory processing disorder, Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy provides a therapeutic environment that helps children who are getting an overload of information or too little through their senses. They don’t feel secure; anxiety is the byproduct. Special equipment, including a ball pit, spinning swings, and other devices help your child’s brain respond better to his environment. She may play with sand and items with other textures to help reduce avoidance or tantrum behaviors when wearing clothing or eating foods with textures she can’t tolerate. 

Stress management 

Our therapists help your child overcome anxious feelings that paralyze her or make her act out. They work with your child on specific strategies: drawing her favorite place; thinking about and talking to her favorite stuffed animal; squeezing a special ball; deep-breathing exercises. 

Your therapist may help your child create a coping skills toolbox. She can have your child decorate the outside and inside of the box. The box contains your child’s favorite items: a slinky, a jar for blowing bubbles, cards with activities she can turn to when she feels anxious. You and your child can also create a toolbox for use at home. 

Identifying the anxious feeling and externalizing it

Your child’s therapist may have her draw her feelings so that she can recognize when her anxiety is becoming overwhelming. She may give the anxiety a name, like “goofy head,” so she can tell it to disappear. The therapist helps your child be the boss of her anxious feeling

Establish structure 

At Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy, we establish a structure for your anxious child. She learns to feel secure in the daily structure. We also help her learn to manage change in the structure. We work with you to help you review and make changes in the structure at home. 

Regular physical activity 

Your child needs an hour of physical activity every day. It helps reduce anxiety. Increasing the heart rate alters brain chemistry. Exercise stimulates the part of the brain that supports executive function, which helps control the amygdala, the body’s system that overreacts  when we’re anxious without a perceived threat. 

Callor message Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy for a consultation about your child’s needs. We’re here to help your child live her life without suffering from undue anxiety. 

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