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A Pandemic of Anxious Children?

Back in October, we were asked to be a part of Memphis Moms' Period Talk. I am a Fertility Awareness Educator with Guiding Star Memphis, a Women’s Health Clinic that specializes in providing support for women in Breastfeeding, Fertility Education, Childbirth, and Motherhood. I was asked to speak with the young girls in attendance about the available period products on the market and provided each girl with a period pack full of essentials for when the inevitable first menstruation happens.

While speaking with these young girls, mostly between the ages of 9 and13 years old, it really struck me how anxious they were. The time with me was the first time during the entire event where they had a chance to speak openly with me and each other without their moms present in the room. They were anxious about the physical changes they were about to experience, and how they would handle that first period if it happened at school. They played through scenarios of what if’s. Each question built on the other in terms of intensity. A lot of that is to be expected, right? Fear of the unknown and going through this huge life event. But there were more than a few girls there who began talking about other things that they were anxious about. One girl in particular was almost in tears about a couple of topics on her mind. Another child said directly to the group, “Sorry, I’m a very anxious child."

It was heartbreaking.

anxious teenager

Luckily, at that same event, I met Madeline Cummings, Business Development Manager for WellMind Behavioral Health and Wellness. WellMind is an outpatient psychiatric, mental health clinic. They treat the exact problem these girls were facing! What luck, right? I reached out to Madeline to ask what is going on with these girls and what we, as moms, can do to help?

First and foremost, she says we need to identify what anxiety looks like in kids and distinguish the differences between nervousness and actual anxiety. Often when kids are nervous it is easy to label them as anxious. Imagine being a child again and hearing from your parents or teachers that you are anxious… you’d probably end up using this term to describe how you feel in every nerve-racking situation right? We need to remove this label from our kid’s vocabulary until we are sure it is more than just nerves.

Here are a few red flags that you can look for to distinguish the difference :


  • Issues Sleeping
  • Trouble eating properly
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Becoming irritable quicker
  • Constant negative/worrisome thoughts affecting everyday life


  • Stressed in unfamiliar settings
  • Uneasy about a big event coming up
  • Occasional butterflies before an event (recital, school presentation, etc)

Nervousness is usually tied to a specific situation and subsides immediately once the situation is over. Anxiety is a disorder that affects everyday life, every day.

Are Parents to Blame?

We, as parents, need to look if we are playing into our child’s anxiety. Children often model their behavior based on the actions and attitudes demonstrated by their caregivers around them. It is crucial for adults to be mindful of their actions, as kids learn by observation more than instruction. Are YOU exhibiting anxiety ridden habits in front of them? Are they hearing you describe yourself as anxious? Do you take anti-anxiety medication in front of them? How are you handling specific situations while they are around? I’ll insert one of my favorite phrases here:

“The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!”

So what is there to do? Ever been on a flight where the flight attendant goes over the oxygen mask safety protocols? Remember how they say to put on YOUR OWN mask before helping others. Same concept here. You can seek treatment for your anxious child but you can also work to alleviate anxiety in your own life.

Here are10 Anxiety Busters for Moms from Psychology Today:

  1. Compartmentalize time spent on social media. Anxiety is contagious. It’s best to dedicate a certain time each day to check in and then leave it alone—especially when kids are around or before bedtime.                                                                                                      anxious teenagers looking online
  2. Moderate news intake. Decide when you will listen or watch the news—ideally without kids around—and then stay off the news cycle so that you aren’t bombarded with stress-inducing images and words.
  3. Add an hour of sleep. Try napping when your child is napping, or sneak in extra sleep on the weekend. In the evenings, drop what you are doing, whether it’s chores or watching TV, an hour earlier than usual. And if you feel sleepy at night, seize the moment and go to bed!
  4. Practice mindfulness. The simple act of meditation and deep breathing can promote relaxation and health. Set aside a time when your children are in school, napping, or even zoned out on video games. Even five to 10 minutes can make a huge difference in bolstering your coping skills.
  5. Bump up your exercise routine. If you have a regular exercise routine, try adding a half hour or increasing the intensity. If you don’t exercise, now is a great time to start. Take your kids with you for a walk or a run, or if you have a baby, try wearing your little one while walking stairs or taking a hike. You’ll not only quell anxiety but also be a fabulous role model for your family.
  6. Go outside and enjoy nature. Stress can build up if you are always cooped up inside and removed from the natural world. Take your children to the nearest park, beach, or woods for a fun stroll or picnic. So go outside, walk, and breathe!
  7. Connect with friends. Social support, such as helping others or supporting one another through stress, has been proven to be mood enhancing and will allow you to work together more effectively. Find a common goal, whether it’s activism, volunteering, or learning a new craft.
  8. Channel your anxiety. Take on that project you’ve been putting off, learn a new skill, or pursue an ignored passion to channel your anxiety in productive ways.
  9. Unleash your gratitude. Take a moment each day to focus on something you are grateful for. As a mom, it’s easy to feel guilty and overwhelmed, but it’s just as easy to find moments with your children to feel grateful for. Relish their milestones and be thankful for them. Our children make us proud, and it’s important to celebrate the joy that they bring.                                                              dad washing hands with his daughter
  10. Hug generously. When the world feels uncontrollable and even dangerous, a hug can work wonders. They soothe and inspire warm emotions. So give some hugs, it’s fun and it works!

If your child is picking up on your habits, now is the time to address it. Start practicing healthy responses to handle anxious situations. If they are uncomfortable about a big event coming up, go over mindful activities and breathing exercises to calm their nerves. Teach your child how to speak up. They need to know it is okay to advocate for themselves and not rely on you, as a parent, to communicate everything for them. Most importantly we need to teach these kids it is OKAY to not be perfect. Validate their feelings, but make it known it is normal to be overwhelmed from time to time.

They might even benefit from using a scale to express their feelings on a realistic level:

how do you feel with empjis



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wellmind sponsored

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