With COVID-19 infection rates dropping around California, young people have started returning to in-person group activities, including sports and hobbies, as well as the classroom. But the continued waves of change and shifting “new normal” have taken a toll, causing many youths to feel anxious.

“Some level of worry is an expected and natural part of teenage life. However, when things that your child once loved come to a halt out of uncontrollable fear, it may be time to seek help,” says Blue Shield of California Director of Behavioral Health David Bond.

Blue Shield of California’s BlueSky program and the Child Mind Institute have collaborated to create a new guide about youth anxiety. It helps parents to recognize the signs, with tips to help children cope, and guidance for when to seek professional help. Here are some highlights:

Signs Your Child’s Worry Could Be More Than Ordinary Anxiety

  • It’s unrealistic. For example, your child worries a loved one has died any time the phone rings, even if everyone is healthy and safe at home.
  • It’s out of proportion. A friend didn’t text back right away, which quickly spirals into assuming the absolute worst and that they may never speak again.
  • It’s unwanted and uncontrollable. Your child has constant, intrusive thoughts about dying or being unable to breathe, despite being healthy.

“Anxiety grows stronger in silence. The first steps to reducing anxiety are recognizing it, naming it, learning about what caused it, and why and how you are reacting to it. One of the best ways to cope is by talking about it, whether with a loved one or a professional,” says Bond. “The road to healing involves identifying what to change, including daily routines and especially, social support.”

Tips to Help Your Child Manage Anxiety

  • Be careful and smart about what is consumed online: Media, social and otherwise, can be a big source of anxiety, especially right now. Youth must be thoughtful about who they follow, what they read and watch, and avoid “doomscrolling” or reading endless bad news. Stick with accounts, channels, and shows that bring joy.
  • Practice mindfulness: Remind youth about the power of taking deep breaths and noticing what to see or hear in the present moment; paying attention to how their body is feeling can help them stay focused and grounded in the present.
  • Find a healthy routine: The pandemic upended old routines. Looking for ways to be flexible and start a new routine, even one as simple as exercising each day, can help youth feel less anxious and more productive.

Parents are key to ensuring children have smooth transitions from the living room back to the classroom, playing field, or party. By talking, listening, and engaging when youth show signs of abnormal worry, parents can help them successfully navigate change and the uncertainties we will all face as the pandemic finally comes to an end.

For more information and additional tips, read the complete Anxiety GuideBlueSky from Blue Shield of California | Resources for Parents (blueshieldca.com)