Children can feel anxious about different things at different ages. Many of these worries are a normal part of growing up.
From the age of around 6 months to 3 years it's very common for young children to have separation anxiety. They may become clingy and cry when separated from their parents or carers. This is a normal stage in a child's development and should stop at around age 2 to 3.
It's also common for preschool-age children to develop specific fears or phobias. Common fears in early childhood include animals, insects, storms, heights, water, blood, and the dark. These fears usually go away gradually on their own.
There may also be other times in a child's life when they feel anxious. For example, many children feel anxious when going to a new school or before tests and exams. Some children feel shy in social situations and may need support with this.
Anxiety becomes a problem for children when it starts to get in the way of their everyday life.
If you go into any school at exam time, all the children will be anxious, but some may be so anxious that they don't manage to get to school that morning.
Severe anxiety like this can harm children's mental and emotional wellbeing, affecting their self-esteem and confidence. They may become withdrawn and go to great lengths to avoid things or situations that make them feel anxious.
When young children feel anxious, they cannot always understand or express what they are feeling. You may notice that they:
In older children you may notice that they:
Find out more about the symptoms of anxiety on our page about anxiety disorders in children.
Some children are more likely to have worries and anxiety than others.
Children often find change difficult and may become anxious following a house move or when starting a new school.
Children who have had a distressing or traumatic experience, such as a car accident or house fire, may suffer from anxiety afterwards.
Family arguments and conflict can also make children feel insecure and anxious.
Teenagers are more likely to suffer with social anxiety than other age groups, avoiding social gatherings or making excuses to get out of them.
Find out more about social anxiety.
If a child is experiencing anxiety, there are things that parents and carers can do to help.
First and foremost, it's important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel.
If your child is old enough, it may help to explain what anxiety is and the physical effects it has on our bodies. It may be helpful to describe anxiety as being like a wave that builds up and then ebbs away again.
As well as talking to your child about their worries and anxiety, it's important to help them find solutions.
For example, if your child is worried about going to a sleepover, it is natural to want to tell them not to go. However, this could mean your child feels that their anxiety will stop them from doing things.
It's better to recognise their anxiety and suggest solutions to help them, so they can go to the sleepover with a plan in place.