by your Coast Doc Mona Bagrodia
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety can be a normal feeling of worry or fear that children have during stressful moments. When anxiety becomes chronic, or interferes with a child’s wellbeing, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Children can exhibit anxiety by being worried, irritable, angry, or clingy. Severe anxiety can affect self esteem and confidence. They may have excessive negative thoughts and think bad things are going to happen. This may cause them to avoid everyday activities. Physical signs include fatigue, headache and stomachache.
Anxiety has worsened in the post Covid 19 pandemic era due to a variety of environmental stressors. These include stay at home isolation, fear that they or a loved one will be infected, decreased physical activity, and increased caregiver mental health stress.
It has been shown that environmental stressors trigger neuroinflammation which increases the risk of mood disorders. Anxiety in a parent or caregiver can also increase anxiety in children as they model the behavior.
Boston College found that rates of anxiety and depression were 6 times higher in 2021 than in 2019. Emergency Room visits by children for mental health issues rose 30% for children 12-17 yo, and 24% for children 5-11 over the course of 2020.
While the need for services increased during the pandemic, the access or use of mental health care did not increase. Preventive care also declined by more than 6%. Missing these well child visits was a lost opportunity for families to connect with their pediatrician.
What Can Parents Do?
1. Listen to your child’s ideas and emotions. Respect their words and feelings as valid.
2. Address compulsions such as excessive hand washing. Ask your child how they feel when they do this and how it may be negatively impacting their life.
3. Stick to routines as much as you can. If a big change is coming up, prepare them.
4. If your child needs a lot of reassurance, after allowing them to express their feelings, confidently let them know you will manage everything together. Help them come up 5. with a realistic plan for anything they’re particularly worried about.
5. Model healthy emotional behavior. We have worries too and it’s important to focus on what we can control. Some worry is normal. We can control the actions we take and how strong the worry becomes.
6. Distract or come up with a calming activity to break the ruminating cycle. This can be a board game, playing outdoors or reading for example.
7. If your child is older a “worry box” may help. As worries arise during the day they can write them on a piece of paper and put them in their box. At a set time during the day go over the box with them. Avoid this designated worry time before bed.
8. Increase exercise. Children that lack physical activity have increased risk of anxiety.
9. Video games have been correlated with trouble regulating emotions. Limit video games and excessive screen time.
10. Encourage social interaction with similar age peers.
When To Get Help
We are here for you and your child. As experts in pediatric well being, we care about your child’s physical and mental health. It’s important to seek help if your child is having severe, persistent anxiety or it is affecting their everyday life. We can discuss coping strategies, refer for counseling and do medication management if needed.
- Childmind.org (Click on “Education” then “Parenting Guides”)
- Healthchildren.org (Click on “Healthy Living” then “Emotional Wellness”)
- Smiling Mind
- Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street
- What’s Up? A Mental Health App
- Better Sleep: Relax & Sleep
- Moshi Kids: Sleep & Meditation
- For Parents
- Freeing Your Child from Anxiety by Tamar Chansky
- Helping Your Anxious Child by Ronald M. Rapee
- Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents by Reid Wilson
- For Teens
- The Anxiety Workbook for Teens by Lisa Schab
- My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide by Michael Tompkis
- The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook for Teens by Jennifer Shannon
- For Children
- What To Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner
- What To Do When You’re Scared and Worried by James J Crist
- When My Worries Get Too Big: A Relaxation Book by Kari Dunn Baron
- Everyone Feels Anxious Sometimes by Daniela Owen
- The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside
- A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
- Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (separation anxiety)
- Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
Dr. Mona Bagrodia has been practicing pediatric medicine for over 10 years and is currently seeing patients at our Del Mar location, and will be moving to our new 4S Ranch location in the very near future. She has completed specialty training through the Reach Institute for Pediatric Mental Health. Through clinical experience and this training, she is comfortable diagnosing and treating common pediatric mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Your doctor at Coast Pediatrics may
refer you to Dr. Bagrodia for non complex medication management. She will determine if they are a candidate for mental health treatment in the primary care office or would benefit from a psychiatry referral. After diagnosis and initiation of treatment if warranted, the patient can return to their primary care doctor for continuation of care. Check out Dr Bagrodia’s bio on our website here!