Anxiety is a normal part of childhood. Every child, at different ages, goes through situations that worry or even scare them. But, what if it’s more than normal childhood fears?

I can remember the day our youngest son went from loving kindergarten, to literally hiding in the hallway closet – refusing to go. It wasn’t his teacher. It wasn’t the students. He wasn’t just “giving us a hard time”. We tried so many different things to bring him back to loving his morning routine, but typical methods weren’t going to work. He was suffering from anxiety.


Realizing we needed a professional opinion wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was where and who? Luckily, there is a great network of doctors here in Boston who specialize in all manner of childhood conditions. They quickly assured us that weren’t the only parents seeking these answers. We weren’t alone.

According to a 2016 report by the Child Mind Institute, mental health disorders are the most common health issues faced by our nation’s school-aged children. That can leave parents wondering “When should we worry?” What can parents do if they believe their child’s anxiety is not typical?

bellonci tufts floating hospital for childrenChris Bellonci, MD, DFAACAP, is a Child Psychiatrist at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, and Medical Director of National Technical Assistance Network for Children’s Behavioral Health.

Here are his tips and advice on what anxious behavior looks like and what to do if you feel your child is suffering from anxiety:

Is It Just A Tummy Ache? – Often anxiety can show itself through common childhood complaints – a tummy ache can spring up for (what seems) no reason. A headache can also signal stress and worry disguised as physical discomfort.

Listen. The overall goal is not to help children eliminate anxiety, rather to help them manage and tolerate anxiety’s uncomfortable feelings – physical and emotional. Therefore, it’s important to listen to your child, acknowledge concerns and identify ways to make worry more manageable.

coping with child anxiety

Teach instead of Rescue. Don’t accommodate your child or empower worries by providing constant reassurance in response to anxiety – this creates a cycle where the child is dependent on the parent rather than developing healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing and positive self-talk.

Be Willing to ask for Help. When a child’s symptoms become problematic for the child (child is not able to perform their day-to-day activities) or for the family unit as a whole, it’s time to seek help. The best place to start is with your child’s pediatrician for a full evaluation and, if necessary, a referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist.

Know Your Options. It’s important to get help – most treatment for children starts with cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications that have been effectively and safely used for more than 20 years in both adults and children are also an option if symptoms become more severe.

Floating Hospital for Children is a reliable and local source of information for parents in Massachusetts

Floating Hospital for Children is the full-service children’s hospital of Tufts Medical Center, located in downtown Boston with partnerships in the surrounding community. They provide pediatric inpatient and outpatient services in every medical and surgical specialty—from general pediatric services to the care of the most complex cancers, heart diseases and traumas.

Many hospitals may have children’s services, but not the personalized, targeted care that Floating Hospital offers. At Floating Hospital for Children, the patients are the inspiration, and they prove every day that you don’t have to be big to be strong.

Floating Hospital’s strength is its size; a smaller, more intimate environment catering to children and their needs. It allows patients and families to feel comfortable and truly experience family-centered care that is uplifting and inspiring to even the smallest of patients.

For more information on keeping your kids healthy and strong, visit Floating Hospital Online.