Taming Your Child's Anxiety


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Sometimes anxiety and childhood go hand in hand. Kids are constantly growing, and growth can mean new experiences, unfamiliar feelings and confusing situations. It’s enough to make anyone anxious. One in eight children has an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, but all children experience anxiety from time to time. Whether your child feels nervous about a family change, new school or rocky friendship, you can help. Here are some age-appropriate strategies to soothe jangled nerves and overgrown worries so kids can simply enjoy being kids.

Ages 0-4

Calm Cues

First, know that some anxiety is a normal part of early childhood.

“It is quite typical for preschool-aged children to show some hesitation or anxiety in new situations,” says Kim Painter, a licensed psychologist and family therapist in Summit, N.J. Whether the stressor is a new teacher, preschool class or food, most children will “warm up” over time. How long it takes varies widely kid to kid, Painter says.

Some children need to be exposed to something new only a couple of times for anxiety to fade, while others might need up to 10 experiences with something or someone in order to feel comfortable. Parents can soothe an anxious tot by remaining calm themselves. Brief statements of encouragement are fine, but excessive reassurance only serves to “grow” the anxiety.

It’s important to note that you can’t save a child from experiencing some anxiety. “Don’t walk on eggshells to try to prevent it,” Painter says. “Instead, help a child face it.”

Ages 5-12

Social Stress

As children enter elementary and middle school, their social world grows — and so can anxiety about friendships, crushes and family relationships. The school years present specific situations that can stir up anxiety, Painter says.

“In middle school, students try to find where they fit in socially, and academic demands increase,” she says. “This is uncharted territory for most children. They’re expected to do more with more independence.”

Family conflict can be especially stressful for school-age children, who are just beginning to understand relationship dynamics. Parental feuds and high-conflict divorces can fuel anxiety that negatively impacts a child’s schoolwork, social life, sleep and overall well-being, says attorney Nadia A. Margherio of Sodoma Law in Charlotte.

“Talking negatively about the other parent can cause serious anxiety, stress and social problems,” Margherio says.

Minimize social stress by maintaining open communication, and when conflicts arise, never bad-mouth the other party.

Ages 13-18

Anxiety Overload

For teens, changing bodies and churning hormones aren’t the only things upping the anxiety ante, Painter says. Increasing academic demands, peer pressure and concerns about fitting in socially can all add up to extra angst. Anxiety is normal for teenagers, and experiencing some anxiousness from time to time is part of growing up.

Occasional anxiety over something like a poor grade or a relationship problem is called “typical anxiety,” and it’s just that — typical. But if your teen experiences intense, frequent bouts of worry and nerves that affect schoolwork, relationships or work, it might be time to consult with a licensed psychologist.

Anxiety-related mental illness often begins during the teen years. Social Anxiety Disorder, which affects 15 million adults, typically appears around age 13. The good news: Anxiety is treatable. “With the appropriate help and support, overly anxious teens can get back to living a healthy life,” Painter says.

Malia Jacobson is an award-winning health and parenting journalist and mom of three.

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August 2019

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Bond Park Community Center
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Herbert C. Young Community Center
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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500 S. Salisbury St.
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Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
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Locopops Dessert Cafe
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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
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Where:
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Cost: See website for fees

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500 S. Salisbury St.
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Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
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Cost: Free

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


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Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

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Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sounds of the night along the American Tobacco Trail! We’ll let the light of an almost full moon guide us as we walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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See the blockbuster movie at Booth Amphitheatre. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $5 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
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Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. Come to the Finley Center anytime during the day to share some jokes with the park community. A large board will be set up in the Exhibit Hall where...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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The Carolina Homeschool Conference 2019 welcomes all homeschoolers for a day of education, inspiration and connection. There will be six workshops, a keynote address and a Q&A panel featuring...

Cost: $32 before July 1, $40 after July 1

Where:
Hope Community Church
2080 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Carolina Homeschool Conference, LLC
Contact Name: Laina Yeisley
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Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Cost: Free

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Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $5 per family

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Where:
The Big Field at Dorothea Dix Park
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Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

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East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

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