Felipa Chavez, Florida Institute of Technology – Anxiety in Children

The rise of social media can leave kids anxious.

Felipa Chavez, assistant professor of psychology at the Florida Institute of Technology, explores what can be done to combat these feelings.

Dr. Chavez received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a concentration in working with children and families from State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo). She was an NIAAA post-doctoral fellow at the Research on Addictions at SUNY-Buffalo. Her work with the Building Blocks program teaches Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), an empirically validated play therapy treatment, to students and provides services to local families as well as schools, daycares, and community centers via Project Play. This program is designed to promote healthy child development outcomes through the reduction of dyadic stress in parent-child interactions, both externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems in children, and child abuse potential.

Anxiety in Children

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While many scholars seek to better understand why anxiety among school-age children seems to be on the rise, the three main factors that could influence anxiety in kids remain the same: age of development; genetics; and socialization. However, culture is changing, which increases the stressors and demands we are putting on children in a variety of ways.

Two potentially anxiety-inducing practices–social comparisons and bullying–that used to be contained primarily at or around school can now happen almost anytime and anywhere, due to social media.  

One approach is to reduce the amount of time children spend on their technologies–and social media–that potentiate heightened anxiety through sometimes unrealistic social comparisons. Another is to favor consistent family engagement in activities that foster parent/child communication and connectedness.  Parents should avoid overbooking children.

Also, adults imposing or projecting their fears onto children, only serves to add to their stressors, pressures and fears of failing. Parents who support and listen to their children can effectively create a safe space for them to talk about their concerns.

Allowing children the space to problem-solve and navigate minor life stressors, enables them to develop useful coping skills and the grit garnered through experience and learning through adversity.  It also fosters responsible decision-making, strengthening their internal resources for resiliency and self-efficacy to weather the storms that will inevitably come as they mature into adults.

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