Mental Health & Wellbeing

Anxiety – primary school aged children

Feeling worried or anxious sometimes is normal. But some children have excessive or repeated fears, worries and anxious feelings that can last for weeks or more. These strong feelings can interfere with typical daily activities, such as going to school or seeing friends, which children may try to avoid. When children’s anxiety is severe or long-lasting it may be an anxiety disorder.

For parents, it can be hard to spot the signs of anxiety as it can show up in a variety of ways. It can be difficult to know what a ‘normal’ amount of worry is, and when to seek further help. Avoiding a situation that makes your child anxious may seem best, but it can quickly become a pattern that is hard to break.

Common signs and symptoms

  • Regularly avoiding everyday experiences and situations, such as school, social events, playing, sport, eating or sleeping
  • Frequent physical complaints, such as tummy aches and headaches
  • Sudden emotional or angry outbursts, tantrums or ‘meltdowns’
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Seeking reassurance often
  • Being preoccupied or unable to concentrate
  • Overplanning situations and overthinking things

Many children will show these signs from time to time, and they may not be related to anxiety. When these signs appear frequently, in an ongoing pattern and cause your child to struggle with everyday life, they may be indicators of an anxiety condition or disorder. Common types of anxiety disorders in children include social anxiety, separation anxiety and generalised anxiety.

Signs of anxiety (primary school aged children)


How to help your child at home

If your child is showing ongoing signs of anxiety, you can support them at home in the following ways:

  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and let you know when they get overwhelmed. It might help to explain these feelings are common – we all feel worried or scared sometimes.
  • If there is a particular situation your child finds challenging, support them to gradually do the thing that makes them anxious. For example, if going to a crowded shopping centre makes them anxious, start with short trips to the local shops, building up to visiting a shopping centre in a quiet period.
  • Make a practical plan together for coping with anxious feelings in the future, such as breathing techniques or reassuring phrases to focus on.
  • Take time out to have fun together and take the focus off feelings of anxiety.
  • Help your child to have healthy routines that include enough good-quality sleep, regular outdoor exercise, eating well and avoiding excessive screen time.
  • Prioritise your child attending school. Attending and participating in school will help your child develop important skills and knowledge to help them learn, as well as building their social and emotional skills.

If you are a parent or carer with anxiety, it is important to also care for your own mental health and seek help when you need it.


Skip to content