Helping children manage anxiety amid big changes

Whether it’s staying home more often or starting a new school year, big changes can give children anxiety. In an interview with ABC15 Arizona, Dr. Alison Steier, director of Mental Health Services and the Harris Institute at Southwest Human Development, discussed helping children manage anxiety during big changes.

Click the image below to watch the full interview:

Steier says that when big changes happen, we have to remember that children, just like adults, might need time to adjust. And since they are still developing their language and communication skills, children might display their anxiety through their behavior.

“Anxious kids sometimes seem like angry kids or defiant kids. They don’t have the words to talk about their worries in the way that older children and adults do, so it comes out in behavior,” Steier says.

Steier’s tips for identifying anxiety in children:

  • Anxiety may display as anger
  • Kids may be more defiant
  • Kids may be more clingy
  • Kids may start acting younger than their age
  • New trouble sleeping
  • Asking more questions

Although we can’t completely prevent our children’s anxiety, we can try to ease it by talking to them when we recognize behavioral clues. Talking about big changes and how they might make them feel frustrated or scared can help children manage their anxiety.

Steier’s tips for helping children manage anxiety:

  • Practice new routines
  • Play games with themes that include recent changes such as wearing masks and separating desks
  • Watch for concerning reactions during practice

If you have concerns about your child’s anxiety or would like to speak with a specialist about parenting and supporting your family during the coronavirus crisis, call our free Birth to Five Helpline at 877-705-KIDS (5437).

All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care.  Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article.  You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance.  Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.