Anxiety and Kids

Anxiety and Kids

During these last three months, we’ve faced extraordinary changes as a society. That has not been lost on our kids. A generation that, as studies show, already faces a 52% increase in anxiety and depression has found itself launched into unprecedented times. They are grieving their routine and mourning the loss of their typical physical and social connection.

Parents: our job has gotten infinitely harder in these last months.

Not only are our kids walking through something unknown – but so are we. It is harder than ever to be a good parent, we have few resources at our disposal on parenting through a pandemic. And while, in theory, we have more time, the reality is many of us are juggling even more than normal; we are working, keeping our kids busy while our spouse works, teaching ours kids, caring for the house and facing the impact that this pandemic has had on us as individuals.

My hope in writing this blog post is twofold:

1) this post can become a one stop shop of resources and information to help you keep doing an amazing job,
2) this post will serve as a reminder that you are not alone.

Even apart – we are in this together

When it comes to anxiety and worry, it’s important to take a minute to clarify the difference between the two while also recognizing that they live on the same continuum. Worry is something we all struggle with and at times, it is significant. But we can pass through worry. Anxiety is a heavier emotion, as it is looped worry that spirals. So it is much harder to pass through. Typically, anxiety is harder to hide than worry because it is more constant and long term, but it is easier to hide than depression.

Depression is best described as a heavy emotion that is deeper than sadness. The best wording for it is often a dark heavy cloud weighing you down. This post will primarily focus on worry and anxiety, but if you think your child (or yourself) may be experiencing depression – please reach out.

The enemy wants us to suffer in silence.  Jesus wants to meet us in it.

It’s important as parents that we understand how to gauge where our kids and students are emotionally, what signs of anxiety or depression may look like, and what tools we can equip them with to help them navigate their emotions at any phase of life or place along the worry continuum. I encourage you to start equipping them with the tools now. You don’t have to wait until you see signs of anxiety or depression, and if you already see signs – it is not too late!

Gauging how kids and teenagers are doing:

Start a daily check-in that includes things like:

    • On a scale of 1 to 10 how are you feeling?
      • Creates specificity when they feel like there are no words
    • Draw what you are feeling inside
    • Daily check in
      • Mind (thoughts)
      • Heart (emotions – can they name them?)
      • Body (where am I holding tension?)


Signs of anxiety in kids:

    • Young kids won’t always say what they are worried about, but they will say they are fearful or afraid
    • Kids with anxiety tend to be more perfectionistic
    • Emotive
    • Tummy aches, headaches
    • Harder time with separation than in the past
    • Explosive splashes of anger that don’t make much sense
    • Can look like manipulation – it’s not because they aren’t getting what they want; it’s because their expectations aren’t being met.

Signs of anxiety in students:

    • Increased irritability
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Eating too much or too little
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Chronic physical pain
    • Avoiding activities, school, or social interactions

Signs of depression in students

    • Not enjoying activities they once enjoyed
    • Sleeping too much during the day, but not at night
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Complete change in appearance or friend groups


Tools we can give them:

    • Give them an emotional vocabulary.
      • Charts of emotions help kids put words to what is inside, there are lots of great examples of this online (the feeling wheel is a fantastic resource!)
    • Help them use breathing techniques.
    • Ask grounding questions when they are upset to bring them back to the present:
      • Name 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you smell etc.
    • Teach active coping skills:
      • Name the category of worry: the two most common are
        • Relationships
        • Future
      • Utilize THINK*: is this thought…
        • True?
        • Helpful?
        • Inspiring?
        • Necessary?
        • Kind?
          *This activity disengages the emotional part of the brain and engages the logical, frontal part of the brain
    • Get moving! Activities help reset our bodies and our minds .

One of the most profound statements on anxiety that I’ve come across in writing this blog post was given by Sissy Goff,

         “anxiety is an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of themselves.”

To help kids move through anxiety and worry we need to give them tools to help themselves, meet them with endless grace, lead them through with empathy, and let them know that it does not define who they are.

As Christian parents, we hold two truths we want our kids to learn – and it feels like they are in tension.

We want them to help themselves and equip them with tools to get through life – AND – we want them to trust God, to know that he is with them even when times are hard and life feels impossible.

One of the biggest questions I get asked is how to parent biblically through depression, anxiety, and worry. I heard an interview with a Christian leader who spoke very openly about his journey with depression and he said, “I would hear things like ‘do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, do not worry’ and they would devastate me because I couldn’t follow those commands” And then as he continued his story he shared how while in a hospital his pastor came and said “I just want you to know I’m here and I’m really sorry you’re hurting.” And that changed everything for him. It is what we, as parents, need to remember:

 the gift of being fully present is the mark of love.

And then we need to admit that life has trouble, so they know that when life happens – they know it is not their fault, there is nothing wrong with them. We need to break this generations prosperity gospel where if they have it all together, things will work out and they won’t have struggles – Jesus tells us in John 16:33,

“In this world you will have trouble” and then he encourages us “but take heart, I have overcome the world.”