Finding ways to help young children deal with stress, anxiety - The Buffalo News

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Finding ways to help young children deal with stress, anxiety

By Dr. Sue Hubbard

The longer I practice, the more I’m concerned that our children are becoming more and more anxious at younger and younger ages. While I was used to seeing anxious teenagers tied up in knots about grades, standardized tests, juggling myriad extracurricular activities and ultimately getting into college, I’m now seeing younger and younger kids worried about a litany of things.

It’s not uncommon for me to see an elementary school child (first to sixth grade) for a regular checkup and when I start discussing sleep, find out that the child is scared to sleep alone, will not spend the night with friends and has tried just “about everything” to try and fix the problem. Still others are so worried about tragedies occurring in their school, or being abducted or hit by a terrible tornado or hurricane, that they have constant stomach aches and headaches, and don’t want to go to school or be away from their parents.

The list of what causes their anxiety seems endless, and part of this may due to the constant bombardment of news via TV, the Internet and other sources. Although our world often seems large and impersonal, this constant and repetitive news stream also seems to bring every story into our own neighborhood. This was not the case before 24-hour-a-day programming.

The problem is that some children have tried and tried to overcome their anxiety and genuinely need help. I don’t think that for most children this comes in the form of a pill. The thought of putting thousands of anxious kids on medicine really worries me. Since I realize that the world is not going to become “less scary” or stress-free, our children need to be taught how to handle anxiety.

As I tell families in my practice, the brains of young children are very pliable and kids are ready to learn new ways to deal with worrisome thoughts. One way to address these emotions is with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Check out our new Parenting Panel feature on CBT by guest expert Anne Morris, Ph.D.:

In the future, other experts will provide helpful information from their respective fields.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is a pediatrician, medical editor and media host. Submit questions at

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