A study published in the journal Pediatrics in August finds that adults who had stomach aches as children are more likely to experience anxiety and depression as adults. For the study, researchers focused on what they call “functional abdominal pain,” stomach pain that has no known cause, such as a blockage or infection.
For the study, Vanderbilt pediatrics professor Lynn Walker and her team surveyed 332 young adults who had stomach pain as children and then compared them with 147 others who did not suffer from stomach disorders of any kind. The research was definitive: among those who’d had stomach problems, 51% suffered from anxiety at some point in their adult lives, while 40% struggled with bouts of depression. Only 16% pf the control group suffered depression.
Possibly the stomach aches were brought on by childhood anxiety that went untreated. That’s the unfortunate news. The good news, however, is that anxiety in children can be managed.
It’s not unusual, especially right before school starts, for children to be anxious about the new year ahead; how parents deal with a child’s anxiety can determine whether or not the school year is greeted negatively or positively.
Writer Maria Mora of She Knows Parenting reminds parents that it’s important to determine the underlying cause of the anxiety. Although a child may be suffering from separation anxiety, they may be nervous simply because of fear of the unknown. A new environment can be stressful for not only children, but adults as well. She emphasizes that regardless of the source of the anxiety, parents should keep their own level of anxiety in check by maintaining a calm demeanor.
Tracie Miles in her excellent article “Helping Kids Deal with Back to School Anxiety” provides practical suggestions to help parents keep their child’s anxiety at bay, such as focusing on those things that will be appealing and fun to the child. She also suggests having the child make a list of what they’re looking forward to during the upcoming year. Talking about your own school experiences (the positives — probably not a good idea to mention your traumatizing experience with the school bully on the playground) will also help keep them from dwelling so much on their anxiety.