Anxiety is ‘children’s word of 2021’, and here’s why it’s a cause of worry

Published on: 23 January 2022, 15:30 pm IST

Anxiety is the word that children in the UK related most with in the year 2021, according to Oxford University Press. Here's what you can do.

Anxiety in kids
There are rising cases of anxiety among children today. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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If there’s one feeling that has persisted over the last two years, it is anxiety. The anxiety about losing control over our lives and health ever since the onslaught of Covid-19 has been rather damaging not just for adults, but also children. No wonder, ‘anxiety’ has been chosen by children as the word of the year in the Oxford Children’s Dictionary for 2021.

When Oxford University Press (OUP) surveyed more than 8,000 children aged between seven and 14 from 85 UK schools about their health and well-being, they used words like anxiety (21%), challenging (19%), isolate (14%), well-being (13%), and resilience (12%).

It was almost overnight that their schools shut down, forcing them to adapt to online learning. No wonder, they have been experiencing anxiety to another level. Moreover, not being connected with their friends and constant isolation have added to their woes. These times have truly been turbulent, and processing grief and adversity are not the easiest, we already know. This also turns attention to their mental health, and the damage that may have been caused as a consequence of Covid-19.

We got in touch with Dr Samir Parikh, an eminent psychiatrist and Director of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare. Here’s what he shared with HealthShots, “We have experienced a very unprecedented event in our history. None of us knew what was the right way to deal with it, we kept on evolving and adapting. Our way of living has gone through a drastic change, there was so much uncertainty about what’s happening next, plus there was also fear of health of your loved ones, disruption in our lifestyle, especially in the case of young people.”

The anxiety struggles

Dr Parikh adds that the addition of masks and practicing isolation has been equally hard for children. Also, with the situation being so dynamic, having control seems like a thing of the past. For instance, children have been unsure about when they will return to the physical classroom; and in case they have managed to, the very fact that schools shut down every now and then based on the number of cases can leave them anxiety-ridden about their future.

Anxiety in kids
Covid-19 has changed the world for kids. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“The human mind is experiencing anxiety in a constantly changing environment. Plus, our way of living is being challenged, and on top of that, there’s also a threat quotient. So, it’s quite natural to experience anxiety. We must understand that we don’t know anything about the long-term future; for now, we know that there are certain safety practices that have proved to be effective: masks, social distancing, vaccines, and sanitisation. We have a shield now, but we have to understand that life is not in our control,” he explains.

Here’s how to help children overcome anxiety:

1. Help them focus on a here-and-now approach, taking one day at a time.
2. Don’t push them in any way.
3. Focus on well-being over everything else.
4. Encourage social connections with friends and family.
5. Foster an environment of creativity.
6. Encourage them to engage in physical activity

Geetika Sachdev Geetika Sachdev

An independent writer and journalist, Geetika loves sharp and fresh humour, just like her coffee! If not writing, you'll find her cafe-hopping and raiding the best book stores in town.

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