Today’s blog is by Amy Kurz, MSW, LCSW, a clinician at Anxiety Specialists of St. Louis who specializes in working with kids and teens who struggle with anxiety, OCD, and related disorders.
Usually children who act out get the most attention, however, sometimes it is the quiet children who are really struggling with anxiety and OCD, and the earlier we can catch it the better. Kids with anxiety and OCD can sometimes fly under the radar because they don’t cause problems at school and, in fact, are often good students.
We all wish to raise kind, polite children who other people find delightful and make good comments about. “Timmy is such a pleasure to have in class,” “Katie is a delight to have over,” etc. While being nice has its place, children also learn how to become independent and differentiate themselves from their parents by disagreeing, sharing different opinions, and saying no. If you feel your child is being too nice or routinely putting others’ needs above their own, you might consider whether there is more going on. In some cases this may be a sign of OCD or anxiety.
5 signs to look for:
Apologizing once in a while is fine but are you telling your child to stop apologizing because they are doing it ALL THE TIME? A child may be apologizing a lot for fear of other people being mad at them and wanting others to like them. They also might be anxious about doing the wrong thing and then getting in trouble. They might feel they should have already known the right thing to do and if they don’t that is a personal failure. Apologizing is also something that society conditions more in children assigned female at birth.
Extra clingy teenagers
They say I love you or need to hug you multiple times in a row and multiple times a day. When children hit adolescence, it is time for them to start separating from parents and wanting to spend more time with friends and peers. If your child does not seem to want to do that and is spending all of their time with you, that could be a sign of anxiety. Maybe they are anxious in social situations or maybe they have a form of OCD where they are worried that if they don’t stay near you or check on you something bad will happen to you.
Clingy teenagers also could have a form of “harm” OCD where they are worried if they don’t stay near you they may do something to harm themselves or others, which makes them very fearful. They might not want to say anything to you about it due to feelings of shame about these thoughts and fear of what these thoughts may mean about them.
Difficulty with saying no
Kids will often express that they don’t want to do things. “I don’t want to clean my room.” “I hate brussel sprouts.” If your child does everything they are asked without question, though this may seem nice in the moment, it could mean they are worried about displeasing you or they are worried something bad will happen if they disagree or say no. This could have implications for their ability to develop into self-sufficient adults. It also might cause issues with peers–they don’t want to make the other kids upset so they will just go along with things.
Asking for reassurance
“Are you mad at me? Is everything ok? Did I do that right? Is it ok if I do this? Are you sure?” At first glance it might seem nice that your child is showing concern and taking responsibility for their actions. While asking these things once might not be cause for concern, if your child is asking you again and again, it could be reassurance seeking–asking the same question over and over in order to feel less anxious–which is often a primary feature of OCD. If you are at the point of frustration with your child because they’ve asked you something so many times, it might be time to consider there is a bigger underlying issue.
Difficulty talking to other people
If your child is unable to order their own food, ask a question at the store, or talk to peers, these might be a signs of social anxiety. While young children may need your help with these tasks as they age, children will often be able to go with friends to buy food at the concession stand or invite friends over to play. If they are terrified of doing those things or ask you to do these things for them, it might be time to consider that they have anxiety.
If you are noticing some of the signs above, your child’s behavior may be getting in the way of them living their life to the fullest. While these things may not seem like a big deal now, the older they get the more these behaviors may get in the way of your child making friends, getting a job, speaking up, and advocating for themselves. This could impact their happiness, the amount of money they are able to make, whether they are able to go to college or live independently, and their overall health and wellness. You may want to consider a consultation with a mental health therapist. Education received in the form of therapy can be just as important to them becoming a healthy, productive adult as the education they receive in school.
If you’d like to talk more about what you’re seeing in your child, please reach out to our care coordinator today to schedule your free consultation call.
Stay Tuned for my next blog…6 Ways to Help Your Anxious Child