The Anxious Child: What Childhood Anxiety May Look Like

This week (May 2nd to 8th) is national Mental Health Week. The initiative is meant to encourage people to talk about, learn about and reflect on issues in the area of mental health. For mental health week we will be doing a series of posts on childhood anxiety.

This is the first post in a series of posts on childhood anxiety.

Anxiety in children is becoming more prevalent than ever, maybe not because children are more anxious nowadays, but rather because childhood anxiety is becoming an important topic of discussion more and more. Approximately 20% of people (including children) will experience some form of maladaptive anxiety within their lifespan. This of course does not mean all anxiety is maladaptive. Anxiety is a natural human response to the possibility of future threat. It plays an important role in preparing the body to respond to threatening situations. However, when anxiety occurs and there is no TRUE threat to the self, it can cause problems.

So, what does anxiety look like in a child? Anxiety can include, but is not limited to some of the following behaviours:

  • Clinging, crying and/or tantrums when separated from a caregiver
  • Excessive shyness, avoiding social situations (ex. Birthday parties, school, sporting events)
  • Constant worry
  • Avoiding situations or places because of fears
  • Complaints of frequent stomachaches or headaches (these are some of the physical ways anxiety can display in children, children may be able to label a physical pain easier than they can identify an emotional state such as anxiety)
  • Fatigue, a child may express being tired often

What you need to know if your child is displaying some of these behaviours:

  • Anxiety is normal: everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it is a normal response in certain situations. It only becomes a concern when it occurs excessively and inappropriately
  • Anxiety is adaptive: like previously mentioned, anxiety is the body’s natural response to identifying and preparing for potential threats
  • Anxiety is part of life: most people experience it at one point or another
  • Anxiety can become a problem: when it is chronic and interferes with daily functioning, however there are ways to cope with it.

Why is this relevant to education?

  • A lot of the time anxiety for children can be attached to school. Based on either the social setting of school, or the academic pressure.

In our next post we will discuss the impact of anxiety for children, teens, and adults.



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