Understanding Anxiety in Children: A Guide for Parents


As parents, we want the best for our children. We celebrate their joys and support them through challenges. But what if your child seems excessively worried or fearful? How can you differentiate between normal childhood worries and something more serious? Let’s explore anxiety in children and how you can navigate this journey together.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal part of life, even for kids. It’s that fluttery feeling before a big test or the nervousness when meeting new people. However, some children experience anxiety more intensely and frequently than others. When anxiety interferes with daily life, it may be time to take a closer look and explore what the underlying cause may be.

Signs and Symptoms

While not an exhaustive list, here are common signs that your child might be struggling with anxiety:

  1. Avoidance Behavior: Children with anxiety may try to avoid situations or issues they’re worried about. For example, they might refuse to go to school or avoid social gatherings.
  2. Physical Symptoms: Watch out for headaches, stomachaches, and trouble sleeping. Anxiety can manifest physically, especially when away from home.
  3. Perfectionism: Some anxious children want things to be perfect and get upset if they’re not. They may seek excessive reassurance.
  4. Overwhelmed Thoughts: Anxiety often leads to overwhelming thoughts. Your child might feel paralyzed by anxious feelings.
Types of Anxiety Disorders in Children

There are a number of different anxiety related disorders that children may experience, but some common presentations that present themselves include:

  1. Phobias: Intense fears of specific things (e.g., spiders, heights) that cause distress.
  2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Chronic worry about various aspects of life, even when there’s no immediate threat.
  3. Separation Anxiety Disorder: Extreme fear of being away from parents or caregivers.
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder: Fear of social situations, leading to avoidance.
When to Seek Help

Although it is common for children to experience anxious feelings, as parents we can often be unsure when does it cross from ‘normal’ anxiety experiences towards something more challenging. The best way to determine this is if your child’s anxious feelings are impacting their life at home, school, with friends or within the community, and the anxiety does not seem to be reducing, then consider seeking professional help. Consult your doctor, a psychologist, or a mental health service – early intervention is crucial.

Treatment Options

Treatment for anxiety in Children typically falls into two categories: Psychological Therapy and Medications. For children, medication is rarely needed or recommended, but when the anxiety is severe it may be important to speak with a Paediatrician about medication options. Regarding Psychological interventions, they typically fall into two main approaches:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Specially adapted for children, CBT helps children manage anxious thoughts but teaching them how to:
    • Notice and understand their signs of anxiety.
    • Relax their body and mind using behaviour strategies.
    • Notice their anxious thoughts and adjust how they think or perceive this thought.
    • Setting themselves small exposure challenges towards the anxiety, to build confidence and resilience.
  2. Family Therapy: Involving parents and siblings can be effective, exploring how the family might support the child with their presenting anxiety. A CBT approach may still be used, looking at how family members might assist with using anxiety management strategies, how they communicate with one another and how family can support the child with exposure challenges.
How You Can Support Your Anxious Child
  1. Acknowledge Their Fears: Don’t dismiss or ignore their worries. Validate their feelings.
  2. Encourage Gradual Exposure: Gently encourage them to face their fears.
  3. Praise Efforts: Celebrate small victories.
  4. Model Coping Strategies: Show how you manage stress.

Remember, you’re not alone. Reach out to professionals, connect with other parents, and create a supportive environment for your child. Together, you can help them thrive despite anxiety. 🌟


  1. Healthdirect: Anxiety in Children
  2. Cleveland Clinic: Anxiety in Children
  3. McLean Hospital: Understanding Anxiety in Children & Teens
  4. Priory Group: A Guide to Understanding Anxiety in Children
  5. Understanding Anxiety: Small Steps Seminars

Feel free to share this information with other parents who may benefit from it! 🌈

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