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Worries and anxiety problems in children: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


All children suffer from worries and anxiety at times. It is quite normal for a child to be anxious about going to the dentist, starting school or do deal with separation from their parents for the first few times. Some children have a greater sensitivity to change than others and always seem to worry more than their friends or siblings.

For parents, the changes and challenges their children face can also make them anxious. Some children pick up on these feelings and that can make them more anxious still. For instance, when a child starts school for the first time, if they sense their parents are very worried, then they will become anxious too. It is as if the parents anxiety proves that what the child has to face will be unpleasant or difficult. For this reason, try to be calm when dealing with anxieties in your child. Sometimes parents become anxious for their children when they have to face things or situations their parents found difficult. If a parent was bullied at school, they will be very sensitive to such issues. It can be useful to think about this if you are constantly feeling anxious about your children. If you are too protective of your child they can fail to develop self-confidence and their own coping skills.

If worries persist and your child becomes very anxious in a way that starts to restrict their normal development, then you need to do something about it. An anxious child may become:

  • Clingy and fearful to leave you
  • May become panicky and breathless
  • Have headaches, tummy aches and other stress reactions
  • May become withdrawn and uncommunicative
  • Lose interest in activities they have always enjoyed
  • Stop wanting to play our or visit friends
  • Keep checking that you are going to be in or what time you will be back home
  • Be bad tempered and tense
  • Develop rituals and difficulty coping with change

Some common causes of anxiety in children

School difficulties

Check with school to see how your child is coping. Ask about their peer relationships, how they are getting on with their teachers and with their work. Ask your child whether they are being bullied or picked on, whether they feel isolated or are worried about their school work. If there are problems, discuss this with the school.

Peer groups

Find out how your child is getting on with their peers in school and at home. Falling out with a friend can be very traumatic and sometimes cuts children off from a larger group. Boyfriend and girlfriend difficulties can be very traumatic and distressing for some children. Talk to your child about their peers and any difficulties they may be experiencing in their social relationships. Try to look at things from their point of view.

Family problems

Divorce, separation, arguments and violence at home can all make children very anxious. The areas most associated with anxiety in children after divorce and separation are criticism of one parent by another and unclear and inconsistent contact arrangements.

The arrival of new children into the family or the exit of an older child, the death of a family member or relative can also lead to raised anxiety levels in children. Try to talk to your children about these things, even if they are very young.

Traumatic and unexpected events

Children can become anxious after traumatic events such as a car crash, witnessing violence, burglary, unexpected and sudden deaths or being attacked etc.

Parental Illness / Disability / Mental Illness / Addiction

When a parent is ill children can become very worried and anxious - particularly if it is a major or sudden illness. Operations and hospitalisation of parents can all be frightening for children. Disabilities in parents and mental illness<