What does anxiety look like in kids?

Anxiety is a normal part of life and can affect anyone, including children. While many children will exhibit fearful and anxious behaviours, in most cases this is short-lived and goes away after a while.

Some examples of typical worries at different stages can include:
● Babies and toddlers fearing loud noises, strangers and separation.
● Preschoolers fearing being alone, big animals and the dark.
● School-age children fearing needles, going to the doctor and supernatural things (like monsters or ghosts).

While many children learn ways to cope with their fears and worries, some children experience anxiety more intensely and more often than other children their age. As parents and carers, it is sometimes hard to know the difference between typical worries and something more.

Signs of Anxiety in Children
If a child is experiencing anxiety they might:
⇒ Express excessive worrying
⇒ Experience difficulty sleeping at night or have vivid nightmares
⇒ Appear restless or fatigued during the day
⇒ Experience difficulty concentrating
⇒ Appear to become easily frustrated, irritated or upset
⇒ Seek a lot of reassurance from caregivers
⇒ Express physical symptoms, such as stomach pains or headaches

When questioning whether your child is exhibiting a typical or clinical level of anxiety, it can be helpful to consider whether their anxious behaviour is stopping them from doing what they want or is interfering with their friendships, schoolwork or family life. Clinical anxiety can impact on a child’s happiness and health, so if your child is displaying persistent signs of anxiety it is important to seek professional help.

Laura Moresi is a psychologist at the Northern and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development, and is currently completing the Educational and Developmental registrar program. Laura is passionate about working collaboratively with families and other professionals to support children and adolescents to reach their best potential. Laura has experience working with a variety of development and mental health concerns.

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