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What Causes Child Anxiety? (How You Can Help Your Child)

What Causes Child Anxiety? (How You Can Help Your Child)

Do you have a child who is struggling with anxiety?

It may feel like it at times but you are not alone - anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns in children and teens.

It can make them feel worried, nervous, or even scared about things that normally wouldn't bother them. an anxious child under the covers

The best way to help your child overcome anxiety is to teach them to deal with it as it comes up. With practice, they will be less anxious.

We can show you how:

Key Takeaways:

  • Teaching your child little tricks to help them calm down in the moment can go a long way to make them feel more comfortable.
  • Avoidance is never the answer, and it's important to encourage your child to face their fears.
  • Validating your child's feelings is important, and so is being able to strike a balance between positive and realistic expectations.
  • Communication is key, and it's important to be open to listening to your child without judgement.

Note: This article is for information purposes only. You should consult a professional psychologist if your child has anxiety issues.

What Is Anxiety?

We all have feelings of worry, anxiousness and even fear from time to time - it's a part of life.

When these feelings begin to become overwhelming and sometimes all-consuming, however, it may be a sign of anxiety.

There are different types of anxiety disorders, but all share the same core symptoms:

  • Excessive worrying or fear that is ongoing and interferes with day-to-day activities
  • Avoidance of activities or situations due to fear or worry
  • Physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, or nausea

What Does Anxiety Look Like In Children?

There will always be an element of worry and nervousness in children as they grow and develop.

As they learn to navigate their world, it's normal for them to feel anxious about things like school, making friends, or trying new activities.

For children with anxiety disorders, however, these feelings are much more intense and last much longer than they should.

As with adults, the symptoms are very similar, however, children lack the ability to articulate how they are feeling as well as adults.

This can often result in tantrums, crying, or aggression.

Other common signs of anxiety in children include:

  • Complaining of stomach aches or headaches with no known medical cause
  • Excessive worry about separating from parents or guardians
  • Frequent worrying about things like grades, popularity, or perfectionism
  • Avoidance of activities or situations due to fear or worry
  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability or crankiness

This is not a comprehensive list, but rather some of the more commonly seen signs.

If you are concerned that your child may be struggling with anxiety, it's important to talk to their doctor.

What Causes Anxiety In Children?

There is no one single cause of anxiety in children. Rather, it is generally the result of a combination of factors.

Some of the more common causes or risk factors for anxiety in children include:


If you or someone in your family has an anxiety disorder, your child is more likely to develop one as well, however, this is not something to place any particular focus on as it is out of your control - the reality is, it's just something to be mindful of.

Brain chemistry:

Imbalances in certain chemicals in the brain can contribute to anxiety; in children, this is often due to puberty.


A stressful or traumatic home life or childhood can increase the risk of developing anxiety. This could be due to things like divorce, abuse, or even moving homes frequently.


Some children are just naturally more anxious than others. This doesn't mean that they are weak or lesser in any way - all it means is that they will likely require more support when it comes taking care of their anxiety.

How Can I Help My Child With Their Anxiety?

In a parent's pursuit of helping their child deal with their anxiety, even with the best intentions, there is one very important thing to keep in mind:

You cannot fix your child's anxiety for them.

The most you can do is provide support and guidance - the actual work of overcoming anxiety will ultimately be up to them.

That being said, there are still plenty of things you can do to help your child through their anxious moments:

Focus On Management, Not Elimination

Most parents' instincts would tell them that the way to fix this would be to eliminate their child's anxiety altogether.

However, this is not only unrealistic, but it can also put a lot of pressure on your child.

A more realistic approach is to focus on managing the anxiety. This means helping your child to understand and cope with their anxiety in a healthy way.

Teaching them little tricks to help them calm down in the moment, such as deep breathing or positive self-talk, can go a long way to make them feel more comfortable in otherwise uncomfortable situations.

Avoidance Is Never The Answer

In the short-term, allowing your child to stay at home from school because they are too anxious to go may seem like the kindest thing to do.

However, this will only reinforce their anxiety by teaching them that being upset gets them what they "want", which is to not go/not do the thing.

It's important to encourage your child to face their fears, even if it's just a little bit at a time.

The more they do it, the more they'll realise that their anxiety is manageable, and that they can do the all the things in spite of/because of their experience.

Positive vs Realistic Expectations

Telling your child that what they are fearful of is not actually going to happen is not always helpful, because it can come across as dismissive of their anxiety.

It's important to validate your child's feelings, and to let them know that you understand why they might be feeling a certain way.

It's important to be able to strike a balance between positive and realistic expectations - acknowledging their anxiety while also helping them to develop a more realistic perspective of the situation.

Encourage Open Communication

Being able to offer your child the support they need starts with being able to communicate effectively. This means being open to listening to your child, without judgement, and really hearing what they have to say.

Be mindful that you're not leading the discussion; let your child do that, and just follow their lead.

Keep It Quick And Easy

Anticipation is the worst for most of us, adults and children alike - especially when what we're waiting for is a completely new experience...

If you, as a parent, know that there are certain situations that are likely to trigger an anxious response in your child, try to make them as brief as possible. The less time they have to spend feeling anxious, the better.

Lastly, but equally as important...

Set A Good Example

Children are incredibly perceptive and they will often take their cues from the adults in their life.

If you, as a parent or caregiver, are feeling stressed or anxious yourself, it's important to find healthy ways to deal with those feelings, so that your child can learn how to do the same.

If you, as their parent, have experienced anxiety, it can be helpful to not only talk to your child about it openly and honestly but also show them that you're managing your anxiety in a healthy way.

This will help them to understand that having anxiety does not mean that their life is over - it's just something that they have to learn to deal with.

While it can be difficult to watch your child suffer from anxiety, remember that there are things you can do to help.

This will help them to understand that anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of, and that everyone deals with it in their own way.


Anxiety is a feeling of fear or worry that can be caused by many different things.

In children, it can often be the result of pressure from parents or caregivers to succeed. However, there are ways to help your child manage their anxiety in a healthy way.

Some helpful tips include teaching them deep breathing exercises or positive self-talk in order to calm down in the moment.

It's important to steer clear of total avoidance as this will only reinforce the anxiety.

Encouraging open communication and setting a good example for your child are also key.

Anxiety is a both a real and valid emotion, but it doesn't have to rule your life - or your child's.

With the right tools and support, your child can learn to manage their anxiety in a healthy and productive way.

What have some of your experiences been?

If you feel like sharing, we'd love to hear about it...

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