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Anxiety in kids: what’s typical and what’s not

Kids have perfectly valid anxieties of their own. Here’s how to help them conquer them.

Anxiety in kids: what’s typical and what’s not

Grown-ups have grown-up anxieties ranging from work to money to relationships. Our kids don’t have to worry about these things, but they may have anxieties of their own. And, just like adults, some kids are naturally more anxious than others.


As a parent, how do you know when your child’s anxiety is to the point where he or she may need outside help?

We spoke to experts about what behaviors related to childhood anxiety are within the “to be expected” range and what are red flags. Here’s what they said:

Shyness vs. social anxiety

The American Psychological Association defines shyness as the tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people. In contrast, anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

So while feeling momentarily awkward around strangers is one thing, feeling visceral reactions of discomfort during any social interaction is more of a concern.

Even then, occasional cases of social anxiety aren’t necessarily cause for serious concern, says Natasha Sharma, author of The Kindness Journal. If a child looks worked up, has a change in breathing or verbally expresses anxiety in the face of an event, Sharma says parents can typically help little ones through the episodes by acknowledging it’s okay to feel nervous and by suggesting some deep breathing.

The red flag: The line between personally manageable social anxiety and cases that would benefit from outside help is drawn when the anxiety gets in the way of a child’s ability to maintain relationships or attend school. As licensed clinical psychologist Kristi Wolfe notes, a good threshold for calling in an expert is if your child has more worry-filled days than not and this has gone on for several months.

Separation anxiety vs. saying goodbye

A few tears before the first day at a new school or when mom leaves for a business trip are normal, but if a child experiences a great deal of stress with every goodbye for prolonged periods of time, they might be veering into anxiety territory.

Research indicates Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is the most commonly diagnosed childhood anxiety disorder in school-age kids, with the biggest peak among children aged 7 to 9. This often occurs along with big school transitions, like the start of middle school, as stress manifests as fear for those your child loves: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American, kids suffering from separation anxiety often worry bad things will happen to them, parents or friends in the absence.

The red flag: If a child is refusing to go to school or other age-appropriate activities that separate them from parents of caregivers, there’s more going on than a dislike of goodbyes.

Evening anxiety vs. bedtime avoidance

Asking for another story, another glass of water or an extra hug doesn’t necessarily mean your child has anxiety. It probably just means they’re engaging in what experts call “bedtime resistance,” and it’s super common in kids between 2 and 8 years old.

Most of the time, anxiety isn’t the root of bedtime battles, but if your child has anxiety symptoms during the day, they may have a difficult time getting to sleep a night, Dr. Gregory Stores notes in a paper published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.

The red flag: Anxious children are late to fall asleep, wake frequently and move around a lot. If a child is exhibiting those symptoms or nighttime panic attacks, anxiety could be to blame.

How to get help

Talking to your child’s pediatrician is the best place to start when anxiety affects sleep, eating habits, relationships or school performance.

A much larger percentage of children will experience minor episodes of anxiety that don’t get in the way of their routine and academic goals—and shouldn’t be considered reasons for shame. As Sharma says, “Normalizing a certain level of anxiety, not just in children, but in everybody, is actually a very healthy way of quelling it.”

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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