Updated: Mar 30
"All children experience anxiety and fearfulness from time to time, and in most cases it is
transient or short-lived. However, when anxiety becomes too intense, frequent, or occurs at inappropriate times, it is extremely distressing and sometimes disabling". Dr. Angie Randell
What is anxiety ?
Anxiety is a normal human response to stressful, unfamiliar or dangerous situations. It refers to a state of uneasiness, fear or worry. Anxiety is often helpful, as it protects us and enhances our performance under stress. For example, a fear of fire will protect a child from getting burnt, and anxiety before a running race can provide an additional boost of cortisol and adrenaline (from the fight and flight response) that can lead to peak performance. All children experience anxiety and fearfulness from time to time, and in most cases it is transient or short-lived. However, when anxiety becomes too intense, frequent, or occurs at inappropriate times, it is extremely distressing and sometimes disabling.
How can a parent recognise anxiety in their child?
There are three main systems of anxiety, the physiological system (the body), behavioural system (what we do), and cognitive system (thoughts). Physiological symptoms of anxiety include muscle tension, faster breathing and heart rate, headaches, feeling hot and sweaty, dry mouth, nausea and tummy-aches. Anxious behaviours tend to be aimed at avoiding a feared situation. For example, your child may become more clingy, distractible or impulsive, seek reassurance, stall, or may throw a tantrum. Young children are not always able to put their thoughts into words, so it can be difficult to know exactly what is going through your child’s mind. They may talk about concerns about what is going to happen, and the feared outcomes are likely to be exaggerations. There may be phrases used like “I can’t do it”.
The nature of anxieties and fears tend to change as childre