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
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- May become withdrawn and uncommunicative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
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.
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.
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<