You're not alone: How to recognize and support kids with anxiety and ADHD
Posted: March 21, 2019 | Word Count: 591
Does your child seem anxious about school? Is it something beyond typical stress? A big challenge for parents is figuring out where to turn for support and information when their kids are struggling.
Parents often wonder whether it’s anxiety or some other issue making school difficult. For instance, some symptoms of ADHD can look like anxiety. According to the CDC, it’s not unusual for a child to have both: 1 in 3 kids who have ADHD also have anxiety.
It’s easy to feel alone when your child has anxiety or ADHD — or when you’re starting to suspect that your child is struggling with something like this. Many parents crave connection with others who understand what they’re going through.
Today, families can find community through resources like Understood’s new podcast, “In It.” In each episode, families and experts provide insights about the joys and challenges of raising the 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. with learning and attention issues, anxiety and related concerns.
“We want families and educators to feel like they’re not alone,” says Amanda Morin, co-host of the podcast. “This journey has enough challenges as it is, so we wanted to create a space for further support and understanding.”
Know the signs of anxiety
If you’re worried your child may have anxiety, it’s important to be familiar with signs of anxiety in kids. This includes behaviors like:
* Saying “what if” a lot and worrying about the future
* Being unable to relax or concentrate
* Getting angry without any clear reason
* Frequently complaining of headaches and stomachaches
Keep an eye on when and why your child gets anxious and look for patterns. What was happening right before your child got anxious? Was he trying to organize his backpack? Was she nervous about starting an assignment and saying things like, “What if I pick the wrong topic?” While everyone experiences anxiety sometimes, excessive worry that is difficult to control may rise to the level of an anxiety disorder.
Keeping track of what you’re seeing will help you understand your child’s struggles. It can also help you frame your concerns for your child’s doctor or mental health specialist.
Is anxiety a sign of something else?
Without a formal evaluation, it can be hard to tell if anxiety is the root of your child’s struggles, or if the anxiety points to something else — like a learning or attention issue. If anxiety is the root of your child’s struggles, knowing this can help you understand other ways your child may be struggling.
That’s what happened for comedian Dena Blizzard. On a recent episode, Blizzard shared how she realized her daughter’s anxiety might be an indicator of other issues. “We had finally gotten her anxiety under control, but I started to notice her difficulty with comprehension. Even though no one agreed with me, I trusted my instinct and had her evaluated for learning disabilities.” Her daughter was found to have auditory processing issues, a learning disability, specifically with problems with comprehension and working memory, and ADHD.
Not all kids with anxiety have learning and attention issues like ADHD. These are different conditions and they’re addressed in different ways — even if they exist together. Parents can look for patterns and consult with teachers, doctors and mental health professionals to determine whether their child has a learning and attention issue, anxiety or both.
To learn more, find the podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. Visit www.understood.org for more information.