Karate Training Can Address Both Mental and Physical Health Concerns in Children
Mental health concerns in school-age children have been on the rise for many years. A study by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) for the five years before the COVID-19 pandemic showed “…there were significant increases in children’s diagnosed anxiety and depression…” This rise in cases of anxiety has been further compounded by the uncertainty in school and personal lives imposed on all people due to the spread of COVID-19.
No one is immune to the effects this has caused to our mental and physical health but to what extent each of us – and especially children – have been detrimentally affected is not always clear.
Signs That Children May Be Struggling With Anxiety
Anxiety is a common mental health issue that affects children of all ages. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old may experience anxiety in different ways. Some of the common symptoms or signs of anxiety in children include:
- Excessive worry or fear about everyday situations
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Avoidance of social situations or activities
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or nausea
- Irritability or restlessness
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
- Panic attacks or sudden feelings of intense fear or discomfort
It is normal for your child to display one or two of these symptoms from time to time, but if you notice that these feelings are consistently presenting themselves then there may be additional underlying causes.
Causes of Anxiety in Children
There are several factors that can contribute to anxiety in children. Some of the common causes of anxiety include:
- Genetics: Children with a family history of anxiety disorders are more likely to develop anxiety themselves.
- Trauma: Children who have experienced a traumatic event such as abuse, neglect, or a natural disaster may develop anxiety.
- School-related stress: Academic pressure, bullying, and social isolation can all contribute to anxiety in children. This type of stress has only increased with more children owning cell phones and interacting on social media.
- Life changes: Major life changes such as moving to a new home, divorce, or the death of a loved one can trigger anxiety in children.
Many times, the perceived source of the stress may not even be really occurring but your child worries that “it might happen”. Regardless of the cause, when children are not able to manage their stress, their health can quickly deteriorate.
How Training in Karate Can Help Alleviate Anxiety
Fortunately, there are many ways that parents can choose to help their child improve their mental health. This may include seeking the guidance of your family doctor, another health professional, your school’s guidance councillor or community leader.
One route to help your child deal with high anxiety you might not have considered is enrolling your child in a professional Karate school or dojo.
The reduction of organized physical activity physical activities at school combined with increase “screen time” means parents need to find outside avenues to meet their children’s physical exercise requirements. Karate is a martial art that involves a variety of physical conditioning and self-defence training. It is noted not only for the increased strength and fitness levels of its participants, but also for the reduction of stress as a result. It can be a great way to help children alleviate anxiety and build up their self-confidence.
Students of Karate are taught that every movement or action must first be conceived of in the mind, then brought to action with their body. This mind-body connection makes students feel more in control of their lives and opens up the possibility of success in areas other than their karate training. Many Karate sessions will involve mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and mental focus which can help children calm their minds and reduce anxiety. This is something they can do anywhere and anytime they are feeling stressed or nervous.
Parents whose children are training in Karate notice an increase in their self-confidence and self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem are less likely to feel the extreme effects of anxiety and are more likely to seek help or guidance when they feel unable to cope with stress.
Karate classes provide a supportive environment where children can interact with peers and build social skills. This environment provides an additional peer group that is aligned with their interests and can be a positive influence. Feeling that you have friends that support you is a key function of maintaining positive mental health.
Anxiety is a common mental health issue that affects children of all ages; children may experience anxiety in different ways depending on their age. As long as they are able to manage it then it won’t have any lingering negative affects on their lives. It’s when stress becomes unmanageable that health risks can escalate.
Karate can be a great way to help children alleviate anxiety before it impacts their health. The benefits are many: physical activity, mindfulness techniques, increased self-esteem and providing social support as well as learning self-defence skills which further develops their self-confidence. Training in Karate may not be for everyone but for the thousands of children who have found success in a dojo, the benefits can last a lifetime.