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Healthy You

Three Action Steps Parents Can Take to Address Anxiety in Children

Tuesday, June 07, 2022 1:31 PM

By Leah Parsons

Spotting anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents can be tough. Is your child having a bad day or is there something more serious going on?

Tuning in to your child’s mental health has never been more urgent. A record number of youths are reporting being sad, worried and stressed. The American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health last October, and it has not shown signs of slowing down.

Indeed, COVID brought more uncertainty, isolation and stress on our children, but mental health experts said the pandemic mainly shone a brighter spotlight on problems that already existed in the background.

Benjamin Shain, MD, PhD, head of child and adolescent psychiatry at NorthShore, said there are three main action steps that parents/caretakers can take to recognize signs of distress in their children:

Believe what your child says. For example, if your child tells you that they are depressed or suicidal, do not just tell them to “suck it up” or to “stop worrying about it.”

Look for changes in functioning. A drastic change, such as a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or a significant drop in grades, is something to pay attention to. Adolescents may or may not straightforwardly communicate about their feelings.

Take self-harm and suicidal threats or behaviors seriously.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, call or make an appointment with your pediatrician who can help you find mental health services in your area. If there is concern about potential harm to self or others, call “911” or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal ideation, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text ‘HOME’ to 741741.