Anxiety is a normal part of life and can affect anyone, including children. But as parents and carers, it’s sometimes hard to know the difference between normal worries and something more serious.
Anxiety during childhood
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood. In most cases, anxiety in children is short-lived and goes away after a while. Some examples of normal worries might be:
- being shy or being worrying about being laughed at
- being upset before and/or after being left at childcare or school
- worrying about schoolwork, sport or health
But many children experience anxiety more intensely and more often than other children, stopping them from getting the most out of life.
Signs of anxiety in children
If a child is often anxious, they might:
- try to avoid the situation or issue they’re worried about
- get headaches and stomach aches often, especially when away from home
- have trouble sleeping or have vivid nightmares
- worry often
- need a lot of reassurance
- want things to be perfect and get upset if they’re not
Supporting children with anxiety
If you think your child has anxiety, you can support them by:
- acknowledging your child’s fears — don’t dismiss or ignore them
- gently encouraging your child to do things they’re anxious about
- waiting until your child actually gets anxious before you step in to help
- praising your child for doing something they’re anxious about
- avoiding labelling your child as ‘shy’ or ‘anxious’
Treating anxiety in children
Children who have severe anxiety can benefit from psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or, in rare cases, medication.
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Last reviewed: May 2020