Recent TV advertising campaigns have highlighted the fact that we live in an age where mental health issues are very prevalent amongst the younger generation, inclusive of children of primary school age and younger. The majority of us will have noticed either their own child or somebody else’s suffering from separation anxiety when being dropped at nursery, relatives or a school and it is true to say that a certain amount of anxiety is part of the normal growing up process, allowing us to learn and grow from our experiences. Where it becomes a problem is when it starts to interfere with the enjoyment of everyday life or simply carrying out daily tasks without that overwhelming feeling of anxiousness taking over.
Whatever your child’s age, there will be tell-tale signs that let you know there is something not right, even if the child is not able to express it themselves. At a very young age, clinginess, crying, bedwetting and poor sleep patterns can be a sign that your child is struggling with their feelings.
When it comes to the primary school age child, it is time to watch for coping mechanisms being undertaken by your child such as undertaking rituals, overeating or under eating and seemingly finding every new challenge the encounter overwhelming to the point of distress.
Teenagers often struggle with their emotions due to the changes in hormones, and as their behaviour can be erratic by nature, it is time to be looking out for things that your child is doing that don’t seem to be in line with their friends or peers. Whilst everybody has their own individual personality, a reluctance to socialise, overzealous anger outbursts as well as fixating on tasks such as getting distressed when they are unable to revise for exams are just a few examples of how anxiety can present. Whilst the older child is able to express themselves in conversation, it is unlikely they will be keen to as they are exploring their own ways of coping with the world around them.
Always remember that as a parent, there is a lot to be said for gut instinct and if you feel that your child is not behaving as they used to or as they should, try talking to them about how they are feeling as a first step. If that doesn’t go well, it is time to call in a health professional.