Strategies to Relieve Anxiety in Kids

Tips From Dr. Ran Anbar of Center Point Medicine

By Courtney Daly-Pavone March 12, 2020

*This article is a 3 minute read.

More than 4 million U.S. children aged 3-17 years have been diagnosed with anxiety according to Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

"Anxiety is characterized by feelings of intense fear, worry, and stress," according to Dr. Ran Anbar, a pediatrician who teaches hypnosis and provides counseling to improve the mental health of children. 

5 Types of Anxiety Disorders Defined By The CDC

  • Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
  • Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
  • Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
  • Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
  • Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)

According to Dr. Anbar, "All children deal with some anxiety including fear of the dark or monsters, or worries related to doing well at school." Anxiety disorders are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day.

Dr. Anbar states, "Hypnosis can be useful in the treatment of all forms of anxiety.  The key is to teach children how to calm themselves, including through learning how to get in touch with their inner selves (e.g, an inner advisor or subconscious).  The inner self tends to be calm and can help guide children to feel more in control of their emotions and reactions."

Dr. Anbar's Recommendations For Managing Anxiety in Children

Make sure kids get sufficient sleep (7-12 year-olds require 10-11 hours of sleep/day while teenagers require 8-9 hours).

Good nutrition, and plenty of physical activity.  

Parents should pay attention to their children’s feelings and act in a supportive fashion, rather than telling them that the feelings are not real.  

Parents should stay calm when their children become anxious. 

Children should be complimented when they make an effort to remain calm.  

Children should not be punished for failure to deal well with their anxiety.    

 Is Anxiety Genetic?

Dr. Anbar states, "We think that anxiety can be inherited.  However, children also learn to be anxious by observing their parents’ behavior.  For example, if a 2-year-old child falls, and the parent attends to the child immediately with great concern in order to ensure that the child is okay, the child learns that falling might be very dangerous.  This can lead to development of anxiety.  On the other hand, a parent who tells their child to get back up and to go have fun, is communicating that a fall is something that can be brushed away easily."

 Avoid This Mistake

Avoiding things that make children anxious only helps to reinforce the anxious behavior.  Children should be encouraged to take small steps towards dealing with whatever makes them anxious as a way of learning how to cope with their anxious feelings.

When Is It Time for Professional Help

 According to Dr. Anbar, "When parents observe that their children’s anxiety is interfering a lot with their lives they should look for help.  For example, if a child is afraid to be alone, go outside or go to school, help should be sought.   As a first step, parents might offer their children an anxiety workbook such as What to Do When You Worry Too Much, by Dr. Dawn Huebner.  If this is not sufficient, therapists who can help with anxiety include those who employ play therapy (for younger children), cognitive behavioral therapy, or hypnosis.  Treatment with medications for anxiety should be the last option."

When Anxiety Is A Result of Chronic Illness

As a physician who has taken care of many children with chronic illness, Dr. Anbar believes that a majority of such children deal with anxiety related to their illness.  "Their anxiety can make their symptoms much worse.  I believe that any child with an illness that is not under excellent control should be evaluated for anxiety.  When they are found to be anxious, such children often improve a great deal once they receive effective treatment for their anxiety."

 To Connect With Dr. Anbar Visit: 

Center Point Medicine

3252 Holiday Court, Suite 113, La Jolla, CA 92037

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