Anxiety in children is normal. Childhood anxieties and fears include separation anxiety, fear of the dark and worries about school. Acknowledge your child’s anxiety and encourage him to do the things he’s anxious about. Praise him when he does. Seek professional help if you think anxiety is affecting your child’s health and happiness.
Anxiety, worries and fear: A normal part of childhood
It’s normal for children to show signs of anxiety, worries and fears sometimes. In most cases, anxiety in children and fears in childhood come and go and don’t last long.
In fact, different anxieties often develop at different stages. For example:
Babies and young children don’t tend to worry about things. For children to be worried, they have to imagine the future and bad things that might happen in it. This is why worries become more common in children over 8 years of age.
Children also worry about different things as they get older. In early childhood, they might worry about getting sick or hurt. In older childhood and adolescence, the focus becomes less concrete. For example, they might think a lot about war, economic and political fears, family relationships and so on.
Worry and fear are different forms of anxiety. Fear usually happens in the present. Worry usually happens when a child thinks about past or future situations. For example, a child might be fearful when he sees a dog and also worry about visiting a friend with a pet dog.
How to support your child with anxiety
If your child shows signs of normal childhood anxiety, you can support him in several ways:
Types of anxiety in children
Children experience several types of anxiety. A child might have only one type of anxiety, or he might show features of several of them.
Social anxiety in children
Social anxiety is fear and worry in situations where children have to interact with other people, or be the focus of attention. Children with social anxiety might:
Separation anxiety in children
Separation anxiety is the fear and worry children experience when they can’t be with their parents or carers. Children with separation anxiety might:
Generalised anxiety in children
Children with generalised anxiety tend to worry about many areas of life – anything from friends at playgroup to world events. Children with generalised anxiety might:
When to be concerned about anxiety in children
Most children have fears or worries of some kind. However, if you’re concerned about your child’s fears, worries or anxiety, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.
You might consider seeing your General Practitioner (GP) or another health professional if:
Finding professional help and treatment for children with anxiety
You can seek professional information and advice from several sources:
Causes of anxiety in children
Some people are more likely to be anxious because anxiety runs in the family – just like eye colour, for example.
People can also learn to think and behave in an anxious way by watching others, or by going through scary experiences.
Certain things in a child’s environment might also increase the child’s chances of becoming anxious. For example, if a parent is overprotective of a shy child, it might help the child in the short term, but it can increase the child’s anxiety overall.