Feelings of anxiety, worry and fear are normal at any age, including in childhood. Most of the time, these feelings are short lived and go away on their own. On the other hand, persistent and extreme forms of worry and anxiety can be a sign of childhood anxiety.
As a parent, it can be difficult to know the difference between a normal amount of worry, and something more serious. That’s why we’ve put together a summary of key points and red flags to look out for.
What is ‘normal’ anxiety?
Short-term episodes of anxiety among children are completely normal. Many parents will know there are certain events in their child’s development which can trigger different types of worry and fear, including:
- Being shy or nervous about being laughed at
- Being upset before/after being left at childcare
- Fear of the dark after having a nightmare
Most of the time, these worries will pass and resolve. However, if a child experiences anxiety more intensely and it stops them from getting the most out of life, treatment can help.
Symptoms of anxiety in children
Children can experience several forms of anxiety. Here are some of the most common types of anxiety and the behaviours that can act as a warning sign.
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:
- Want to avoid attending school or social situations
- Be shy, withdrawn and reluctant to communicate
- Have difficulty socialising with other children
- Believe that others will think badly or make fun of them
Separation anxiety is the panic and worry that a child can experience when they can’t be with their parents. Children with separation anxiety might:
- Cry or struggle when being separated from their parents
- Become physically ill when separated from their parents
- Refuse to go to or stay at day care or school by themselves
- Be unable to sleep at other people’s homes without their parents
- Worry that something bad may happen to their parents
Children with generalised anxiety tend to worry about many areas of life. Children with generalised anxiety might:
- Worry about homework, health, safety, world events, and doing well at school or sport
- Want to be perfect at everything they do
- Be fearful of new or unfamiliar situations
- Be unable to sleep due to feelings of anxiety and worry
- Seek constant reassurance
- Have repeated panic attacks, with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy or sweaty
Supporting children with anxiety
Kids’ mental health is important – we know that unresolved challenges in childhood can carry over and become worse in adulthood. That’s why it’s crucial to act early if your child is experiencing anxiety. There are many approaches and therapies that can help your child, and your family as a whole, to overcome the challenges of anxiety. At Wise Institute, we provide parents with the crucial tools and support to assist children to thrive. Whether it is through participation in our Cool Kids program, or one-on-one work between a parent and our experienced clinicians, we assist children and families to live their best lives.