5 Signs of Tween Anxiety
In case you’ve forgotten: puberty is tough. Learning to deal with a changing body, an influx of hormones, and a heightened need to be accepted can shake the confidence of almost any child. If your middle-schooler seems out of sorts or especially unhappy, there are a few things you should look for.
1. Complaining of illness. Many tweens begin to complain of vague physical symptoms like a stomachache or headache and want to stay home from school. Start by treating the symptoms as if they’re purely physical (an antacid to settle an upset tummy or more fruits and veggies to improve digestion). If these fail to resolve your child’s concerns, ask if she’s worried about something at school. Often a deeper inquiry will reveal that the source of the physical discomfort is also psychological. Talk about what is causing stress, be it grades or friends, and help your child learn to cope with the challenges.
2. Withdrawing. Tweens and teens who feel they can’t cope with the social pressures may start to keep to themself more as a defense. If you see your child backing away from activities and friends he used to enjoy, have a talk about why his behavior has changed to see if there’s a specific source of anxiety which could be eliminated.
3. Moodiness. Moodiness, sadness or irritability is often chalked up by parents as a normal rite of passage for an adolescent. And to some extent, it is. However, healthy teens may suffer a couple of days of grumpiness or the blues, but will bounce back and regain their normal outlook soon. Sadness or moodiness that persists for more than a couple of weeks may be a sign of true depression, which is a close companion to anxiety. If your child gets into a “funk” that doesn’t resolve quickly, check with your pediatrician to see if treatment may be needed.
4. Low Self-Esteem. Your tween may be so overcome with a fear of peer rejection that she no longer has an accurate sense of herself. You can help this to some extent by reminding your child of her talents and positive attributes. But, children of this age look more to their peers for this affirmation than to their parents so don’t be surprised if she has a hard time being satisfied with your encouragement alone.
5. Constant Fear of Embarrassment. Children of this age can be almost paralyzed by the fear of even the smallest amount of negative attention from peers. Tripping in class or being teased for their appearance can go from a mild fear to a source of serious social anxiety.
If you’re still unsure whether your child’s anxiety is normal prepubescent behavior or something that requires intervention, talk to your family physician. Fortunately, even for serious cases, there are effective therapies and medications for anxiety disorders which can help your child return to a happier, more confident kid.
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