If your child is feeling anxious, nervous or panicky, there are small steps you can take to help them – including understanding the reasons why they’re feeling anxious, providing emotional support and find the right professional help, if they need it.

Just like adults, children and young people feel anxious, worried, or uneasy from time to time. They might worry about friendships, feel a knot in their stomach on their first day at school, or get sweaty palms when they are under stress, like at exam time.  

Young girl sat on some stairs

During times like this, feeling a little anxious can be perfectly normal. The good news is this feeling usually passes with time.  

However, anxiety can become a mental health condition if they constantly feel worried, tense, or afraid, and it stops them from living their life as fully as they'd like to.  

Here are some of the signs of anxiety, simple ways you can support young people, and some of the services we offer to help young people stay happy and healthy. 

Some support you may be able to access yourself. This is called a self-referral. Other times, a GP, teacher, or social worker will need to request this support for you. 

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety feels different for everyone. But if your child has been excessively anxious or worrying for a few months about different events or activities, it’s worth reaching out for help.  

Some young people may be anxious about certain things. For example, if you have an overwhelming fear of social situations, it is sometimes called social anxiety disorder (social phobia). 

When a young child is feeling anxious, they might not be able to understand or put into words how they’re feeling. Instead, they might: 

  • become irritable, tearful, or clingy  

  • struggle to sleep  

  • wake up in the night  

  • start wetting the bed  

  • have bad dreams

Older children may experience physical, mental, or emotional symptoms such as:  

  • feeling nervous, restless or “on edge” all the time  

  • having lots of negative thoughts or believing that terrible things are going to happen  

  • feeling tired and fatigued  

  • difficulty concentrating  

  • feeling grumpy and irritable  

  • having difficulty sleeping  

  • feeling lightheaded and dizzy  

  • headaches or stomach aches  

  • sweating  

  • trembling or shaking  

  • loss of appetite  

  • withdrawing from friends and family  

  • feeling disconnected from their mind, body, or the world around them 

It can be difficult to know if there’s something worrying a child. But you know your child better than anyone. If you are concerned, talk to them about how they’re feeling and remind them that you’re here to help. 

What causes anxiety?

Everyone experiences anxiety differently, so it’s not always easy to pinpoint a cause.  

There are a lot of reasons why a child may feel anxious. But they may be more likely to feel anxious if they: 

  • have experienced a lot of change in a short space of time, such as moving house or school 

  • are around someone else, such as a parent, who is very anxious 

  • struggle at school and feel overwhelmed by work and exams 

  • have responsibilities beyond their age, for example, if they’re a young carer 

  • have gone through a distressing or traumatic experience, such as being bullied or being in a car accident or house fire 

  • have experienced family conflict, abuse, or neglect 

  • have experienced grief or bereavement

How to help a child with anxiety

There are lots of different strategies you can try with your child if they are struggling with anxiety or worry.  

Every child is unique, and the techniques that will work for them may differ to other children. It’s all about finding what works best for your child to better support them when they’re feeling anxious. You can read more about strategies for coping with anxiety and worry here.

Treatment for anxiety in children  

If your child’s anxiety is impacting their day-to-day life, don’t hesitate to get help. There are many different places you can get support. For instance, they could speak to: 

  • Their GP – They can provide information, advice, and discuss therapy and medication if needed. They can also refer them to a mental health specialist or to Child and Adolescent Mental health Services (CAMHs), depending on your child’s needs 

  • School –If your child is struggling, it can sometimes help to speak with the school to let them know what’s going on. However, make sure your child feels comfortable with this beforehand. As well as counselling, their school might be able to provide mental health support such as drop-in chat sessions or a peer buddy. Depending on your circumstances, they can also refer your child to CAMHS or other mental health services 

  • A counsellor or therapist – Your child’s GP or school may be able to refer them to a counsellor or therapist. They will be able to help your child better understand any difficult thoughts and feelings and teach them healthy ways to cope 

  • Charity helplines – Sometimes it can help just to have a listening ear and a safe space where you can talk about what’s troubling you. If your child is struggling and they don’t know where to turn, they could contact helplines from charities such as The Mix, ChildlineSamaritans, or Shout 

What treatment your child is offered will depend on their age and the cause of their anxiety. It may include:  


Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of talking therapy for anxiety. It’s based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are all connected. 

Young girl with project worker

It also teaches us that people can learn unhelpful thinking patterns, which can leave them feeling stuck in a negative loop, but that we can break free from them.  By tuning into our feelings and noticing negative thinking patterns, CBT can teach us how to change things and deal with problems in a more positive way.

If a child is struggling with anxiety, they might also find counselling useful. Counselling is a type of talking therapy where a trained therapist will listen to you talk about any emotional problems you’re facing and help you find better ways to cope.   


In some cases, a doctor may be able to offer your child medication if they are severely struggling to cope with their anxiety and the strategies that they are actively putting in place from their talking therapies don’t seem to be helping. However, there are a number of talking therapies that are recommended first.  

Mental health support we offer  

Supporting your child’s mental health is an important part of parenting or caregiving.  

We offer mental health services across the UK to help children, young people and families who are dealing with anxiety, such as:  

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)  

  • one-to-one and group counselling  

  • school-based programmes that teach young people about emotional wellbeing and mental health.  

Some support you may be able to access yourself, on behalf of the child in your care. This is called a self-referral. Other times, a GP, teacher, or social worker will need to request this support for your child. 

Remember, supporting other people’s mental health can feel challenging. Go easy on yourself and make sure to reach out for support if you need it too. You can find further support for parents and carers here

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