Anxiety in children is on the rise

Johannesburg – Mental health issues do not only affect adults.

In fact, education and health experts have noticed a substantial increase in anxiety cases presented in children.

Reasons for this, they say, are because children are also having to live through a pandemic, having to write exams soon and dealing with stresses such as bullying and the like.

Education expert Dr Jacques Mostert said anxiety in children is common and that it should not be taken lightly. Mostert, who holds a PhD in psychology of education and is brand academic manager at ADvTECH, said anxiety is your body’s normal reaction to perceived danger or important event.

He reports that there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of anxiety among children in the past year.

He said some of the signs to look out for include inattention and restlessness; attendance problems and clingy kids; disruptive behaviour that is not typical of the young person; trouble answering questions in class; an increase in problems generally, which could include a marked downturn in academic performance in certain subjects where usually there wasn’t a problem, and if a child starts avoiding socialising or group work.

Mostert added that even young children who do not watch the news still pick up on the concerns of the adults around them, and constantly have safety measures reinforced in a way they were not before 2020. Mostert said routine is key in managing anxiety.

“The first important step is to reinstate regular routines, including in the morning and evening. Nobody copes well when they are tired or hungry. Anxious children often don’t feel like eating breakfast, they might not feel hungry, or become nauseous after eating breakfast, so start making sure that your child gets back in the habit of getting some nutrition before heading to school.

“Also, make sure that your child wakes up early enough to avoid rushing to get to school. If your child spends hours before going to sleep on a device or social media, this is a habit that needs to end. It is not healthy for children or adults, for that matter,” he says.

“Practice being a good listener, remain positive and retain a sense of humour, give positive feedback and reinforcement, aim to see fears from the child’s perspective,” he said.

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