Most children in Hong Kong are subjected to an excess of academic pressure. From gaining admission into a prestigious school or becoming best in their class, schoolchildren are now exposed to more stress at a much younger age. An alarming survey conducted in 2017 shows that 1 in 10 schoolchildren display signs of serious depression. And further, a government report published in the same year confirmed the number of children with mental health problems would increase by more than 5% each year.
While academic performance appears to be the primary source of anxiety in children, the problem is not restricted to school-related issues alone. Any stressful event in a child’s life, such as peer abuse or problems at home, can also cultivate anxiety. If left unnoticed, these levels of stress and anxiety can affect their academic performance, and more importantly, their emotional and physical wellbeing. Fortunately, with appropriate measures and help in place, children can manage or overcome these anxieties.
How does anxiety affect a child’s daily life?
Children suffering from anxiety often have problems performing daily tasks, including those at school. Without help from professionals, dealing with their anxieties alone can lead them to poorer performance in school compared to their classmates, and often, anxious children can find it hard to enter adulthood.
If your child suffers from anxiety, you may find that they have:
- problems getting ready for school
- problems with homework and in-class assignments
- a negative perception of school
- problems socialising with peers
- problems talking about negative experiences
That’s why it is crucial to observe even small behaviours and identify any symptoms of anxiety early. Getting help for your child as soon as possible means that they lessen the risk of developing long-term consequences of an untreated anxiety disorder.
What are the 5 most common signs of anxiety in children below 10?
We have prepared a list of the most common symptoms of anxiety in children below 10 years old.
#1. Poor sleep
Poor sleep can be manifested in many forms, such as:
- difficulty in falling asleep
- night terrors
- frequent waking up from sleep
- waking up tired
If these symptoms have started to show recently, they may be a sign that your child is experiencing anxiety.
#2. Somatic symptoms
Young children suffering from anxiety may show physical symptoms such as:
- shortness of breath
These symptoms can either be real symptoms confirmed by a doctor, or the child pretending to have them to avoid different situations. Whatever the reason is, you should consult a doctor.
This is when the child is doing anything to avoid specific tasks that are associated with stress. They might even make up other tasks to avoid carrying out these tasks.
For example, the child may give excuses such as, ‘I can’t go to school because I have to take care of my dog. He’ll be lonely at home by himself’ or ‘The teacher taught us yesterday how to take care of plants; I need to water all of them before I go to school’.
Tantrums are a part of growing up, but if the tantrum takes any of the following forms, then it could be a sign of anxiety.
- refusing to go to school
- meltdowns before school about clothing, hair, shoes, socks, etc.
- meltdowns after school about homework
- refusing to talk about school and crying to avoid the subject
#5. Rituals and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Sometimes, children resort to forming rituals when they anticipate anxiety building up, and they are likely to be more prone to OCD.
For example, a child might wash their hands repeatedly as they think that their hands are always dirty. They tend to do this whenever they feel that a potential stressor is on its way. In some cases, children with anxiety may also demand their parents to comply with their new rituals, as if to ensure their parents will also avoid being hurt by the perceived stressor.
If you’ve noticed any of these 5 symptoms above in your child, you should consider seeking professional help soon.
Waiting until the symptoms become more apparent may hinder your child’s academic performance and overall social development. This is especially important for families living in an environment that can often seem stressful already. In Hong Kong, for example, children with learning difficulties are more prone to develop an anxiety disorder mainly because of the pressure at school.
What should I do if I think my child is suffering from anxiety?
Try to remember the time when you first noticed any of the above symptoms. Have there been any events before this that could have caused your child excessive stress?
Most importantly, regardless of whether your child has anxiety or not, open and honest communication is crucial to their healthy development. Make sure you supportively convey messages through your words and actions, making yourself the first person your child will go to when facing problems.
Some children may feel like they don’t want to overburden their parents with their problems, especially if they notice a parent being especially stressed or concerned. Therefore, showing positive support, rather than concern, is the key to opening up space for healthy conversation about the potential problems your child is facing.
How can OT&P MindWorX help?
OT&P MindWorX has a dedicated team of psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counsellors, and behavioural therapists who are specialised in dealing with children’s learning and development.
We ensure that every child is relaxed and comfortable during the psychoeducational evaluation process, which is typically conducted over 2 days of 3-hour sessions. This can differ from case to case though, so it’s best to discuss your child’s individual needs with us for tailored advice, or find out more about our psychoeducational services to see how we can help.
- Matheis, L. (2019, October 4). Signs Of Anxiety In Children: Child Anxiety Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.anxiety.org/causes-and-symptoms-of-anxiety-in-children
- One in 10 Hong Kong pupils suffer serious depression, survey shows. (2018, July 20). Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2120602/one-10-hong-kong-primary-pupils-suffer-serious-depression
- Why more Hong Kong children have mental health issues. (2017, April 22). Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/2089605/all-work-and-no-play-why-more-hong-kong-children