Taking your child to a doctor for a mental health problem is as important as visiting a doctor for an ear infection or broken arm. Finding a health professional that you and your child can work with—and who makes you both feel comfortable—is critical.
Anxiety disorders in children are treatable, and they can be treated by a wide range of mental health professionals who have training in scientifically proven treatments. Psychiatrists and nurse practitioners can prescribe medication. Psychologists, social workers, and counselors are more likely to have cognitive-behavioral treatment, or CBT, training. Learn more about treatment.
A therapist should be willing to answer any questions you may have about methods, training, and fees during a consultation. Bring a list of your child’s symptoms to discuss, and consider asking these questions:
- What training and experience do you have in treating anxiety disorders?
- Are you qualified to provide cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)?
- What is your basic approach to treatment?
- Can you prescribe medication or refer me to someone who can, if that proves necessary?
- How long is the course of treatment?
- How frequent are treatment sessions and how long do they last?
- Do you include family members in therapy?
- What is your fee schedule, and do you have a sliding scale for varying financial circumstances?
- What kinds of health insurance do you accept?
If a therapist is reluctant to answer your questions, or if you or your child does not feel comfortable, see someone else.
- Pay attention to your child’s feelings.
- Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event.
- Recognize and praise small accomplishments.
- Don’t punish mistakes or lack of progress.
- Be flexible and try to maintain a normal routine.
- Modify expectations during stressful periods.
- Plan for transitions. (For example, allow extra time in the morning if getting to school is difficult.)
Your child’s anxiety disorder may affect success at school. If an anxiety disorder is causing your child to struggle academically or socially, the first step is to talk to the teacher, principal, or counselor about your concerns. School personnel will likely recognize some symptoms or manifestations of your child’s anxiety at school, but they may not realize they are caused by an anxiety disorder, or how they can help. Use your child’s diagnosis to open lines of communication.
Talk about any accommodations that may help your child succeed in the classroom. You have the right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to request appropriate accommodations related to your child’s diagnosis. Also ask them to monitor changes and behavior in the classroom so you can inform your doctor of any progress or problems, or ask them to speak to the doctor or therapist directly.
ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children in the United States*
- 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis.
- 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.
- 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.
- 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.
* These statistics are taken from the CDC.gov website Additional anxiety/depression statistics can be found on this website.
- Adolescent Girls and Anxiety - ADAA blog post
- Back to School Anxiety - ADAA blog post
- Blips and Bumps Happen - ADAA blog post
- Childhood Depression - ADAA blog post
- Is Your Child Scared By Halloween? A Cognitive Behavioral Therapist Offers Help - ADAA blog post
- Separation Anxiety - What Parents Should Know - ADAA blog post
- Three Syrian Refugee Children on the Streets of Istanbul - ADAA blog post
- Watch, Ask and Listen: How to Tell if Your Child or Teen is Anxious or Depressed - ADAA blog post
- When Reassurance is Hurting Your Child More Than Helping - ADAA blog post
- Where are Mommy and Daddy?! The Traumatic Impact of Separating Families - ADAA blog post
- Collaborating with Pediatricians: Tools & Techniques to Enhance Relationships & Care Coordination with Pediatricians in your Community - ADAA professional webinar
- How to Manage Family Accommodation in Child Anxiety and OCD: An Interview with Dr. Eli Lebowitz - ADAA professional webinar
- Empowering Families in the Face of Pediatric Acute Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) - ADAA professional webinar
- Diagnosing and Treating ADHD and Comorbidity Conditions in Preschoolers - ADAA professional webinar
- How to Best Understand and Address Selective Mutism in Younger Children, Tweens, and Teens - ADAA professional webinar
- Addressing Cognitive Dimensions of Academic & School Anxiety - ADAA professional webinar
- Clinical Kung Fu: Managing Anger in Children and Teens with Anxiety Disorders - ADAA professional webinar
Anxiety Medication Guide for Parents, AACAP.org, written by ADAA member John Walkup, MD
2019 Children's Mental Health Report by Child Mind Institute (ADAA Partner)
Anxiety in Teens is Rising - What's Going On? HealthyChildren.org
ADAA supports KidGuard and their mission to provide child protection relating to risks arising from the internet and technology.