Anxiety means the thoughts and feelings we get when we are frightened, worried or stressed. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time.
Feeling anxious causes the body to produce adrenaline, which leads to physical responses:
- Dry mouth
- Pounding heart
- Strange feeling (butterflies) in the tummy
- Tense muscles
Children and young people can feel anxious about different things at different ages. For example, starting primary school, overhearing arguing at home or falling out with friends.
Many children and young people will experience anxiety and this is a normal part of growing up. Anxiety can become a problem when it impacts on a child or young person's day to day life.
Things you may notice
Younger children may:
- Become irritable, tearful or clingy
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Wake in the night more often
- Start wetting the bed
- Have bad dreams
Older children and young people may:
- Lack the confidence to try new things
- Seem unable to face simple, everyday challenges
- Find it hard to concentrate
- Have problems with sleeping or eating
- Have angry outbursts
- Have negative thoughts going round and round their head, or keep thinking that bad things are going to happen
- Start avoiding everyday activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or attending school
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What you can do
- Normalise anxiety. Worries and anxiety are normal. Make sure your child knows they are not alone.
- In a calm moment talk with your child about their anxiety. Avoid talking about worries just before bed.
- Help children and young people to work out what they are anxious about. What are they worried will happen?
- Help your child recognise when they are getting anxious. Help them remember feelings will pass and the physical sensations cannot harm them.
- Make a worry box or self soothe box.
- Help them make an action plan with steps they can take to face what they are worried about. There may not be a perfect solution.
- Remind them that taking some deep breaths will help calm down the physical symptoms of anxiety.
- Encourage them to do things that help them feel more relaxed, for example spending time with friends, playing sports, relaxation exercises.
- Worrying usually focuses on the past or future. Mindfulness can help children and young people focus attention on the here and now.
- Seek professional help if you're worried about your child's mental health and things aren't getting better. Speak to your child's school, GP, Health Visitor, School Nurse, or the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
Little Parachutes picture books that help children cope with worries, health issues and new experiences
CBeebies techniques for helping kids keep calm
Success Club has mindfulness resources for children
Childline calm zone for activities and tools for when children feel anxious, scared or sad
Clear Fear app to help manage symptoms of anxiety
Fear Tools app for managing anxiety
Mindmate information, support and resources
Young Minds supporting your child with anxiety
Young Minds school anxiety and refusal
Hands On Scotland anxiety page
This may help practical advice for parents and carers
Video for parents and carers on how to support a young person with anxiety