Children often exhibit anxiety differently than adults. Sometimes that annoying, pesty behavior your child can engage in is really anxiety in disguise. Here are 11 signs, in no particular order, that your child may be experiencing anxiety:

• Complaints of unusual physical symptoms with no known cause (such as stomach ache, headache, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat)
• Change in eating habits (either too much, or too little)
• Cruelty toward pets or siblings
• Nightmares
• Irritability
• Poor concentration
• Nervous laughter (the kind that just doesn’t stop, or is in response to something that is clearly not funny)
• Explosive crying and yelling(outbursts for seemingly small problems)
• Unusual shyness
• Free-floating anxiety (worry with no specific cause)
• Avoiding doing certain tasks or activities

It is important to note that any one of these behaviors in isolation does not necessarily mean your child is experiencing anxiety. However, if these behaviors seem to be ongoing with no clear cause and your child exhibits several of these together, it is possible they are struggling with anxiety.

Anxiety is an emotion that has clear physical signs, such as shortness of breath, agitated behavior, tight muscles. We can use our physical body and our mind to manage and contain some anxiety. Specific, proven strategies include:

Exercise: Running around outside (or for older kids/teen going for a run) is a great way to release tension and help the brain release endorphins—natural chemicals that help us relax.

• Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is the BEST tool to use to counter anxiety. Why? You always have it with you! You can breathe at home, school, church, in the school play, you name it. The key is to stop your body and take slow, deep breaths, exhale all the way and focus on your breathing.

• Imagery: Kids who are visual can use this technique well. When relaxed, have your child imagine a favorite place that is soothing and relaxing to him. It can be a beach, a lake, their bedroom. It must be a place they have visited, not just imagined. Then have them describe this place in detail—the sounds, colors, scents, if people are there or not, etc. Have them practice visiting their “special place” in their mind. When anxious, someone can cue your child to sit quietly and imagine their special place. This will sooth and relax.

• Hyperfocus: It can be very relaxing to focus on one repetitive motion or activity, such as drawing lines on paper, stroking a pet’s fur. In his book, “It’s So Much Work to be Your Friend,” Rick Lavoie suggests this approach: Find two surfaces of different textures (e.g. table top and fabric on pants). Close your eyes and make circular motions on one surface with the fingertips of one hand, and on the other surface with the fingertips of your other hand. Practice this with your child at home.

I hope these signs and strategies can help you support your child through the sometimes anxiety producing transition into a new school year. As always, if you feel your child is distressed and anxious to the point of it interfering with daily activities, consult a mental health professional who specializes in treating anxiety disorders.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Susan Giurleo, is licensed psychologist who specializes in empowering parents to create peaceful, organized families. She exclusively works with families and children impacted by ADHD/ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Specific Learning Disabilities. She counsels and coaches children, teens and parents on issues of attention, organization, behavior, and homework strategies. For more information, and to get her free report, “Parenting Your Unique Child: 21 Ways to Survive and Thrive,” visit Child Development Partners.