Signs of anxiety in children

Is your child suffering from anxiety? Here are 8 symptoms to look out for …

It’s normal for children to feel worried or anxious from time to time, such as when they’re starting school or nursery, or moving to a new area. It’s also normal for some children to feel more anxious than others – we all have different levels of stress that we can cope with.

But for some children, anxiety can affect their day-to-day life and impact on the quality of their learning or their ability to enjoy social activities. It can also have a negative impact on their self-esteem, which is the foundation of a child’s wellbeing and confidence and the key to success as an adult. At all ages, how you feel about yourself affects how you act.

Self-esteem is affected by a child’s experiences and new perceptions so is likely to fluctuate as a child grows. However, children who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves tend to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They smile more readily and enjoy life. In contrast, children with low self-esteem can find challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. If given to self-critical thoughts such as “I’m no good” or “I can’t do anything right,” they may become passive, withdrawn or depressed. Faced with a new challenge, their immediate response might be “I can’t.”

So, how do you know when your child’s anxiety has reached a stage where it needs to be dealt with? Here is a non-exhaustive list of symptoms they may display:

• finding it hard to concentrate
• not sleeping or waking in the night with bad dreams
• not eating properly or complaining of tummy aches
• quickly getting angry or irritable and being out of control during outbursts
• constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
• feeling tense and fidgety or using the toilet often
• excessive clinginess and separation anxiety
• avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding things or places or refusing to do things or go places

It’s important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries and let them know they can talk to you at any time. It may help if you explain what anxiety is, how normal it is and the physical effects it has on our bodies.

Gemma Ware, our Guildford-based Sunflower Practitioner shares her own experience of anxiety, “I had difficulties at school, like every child, made particularly challenging by dyslexia. To this day, I find that a certain sight, sound or smell will bring back painful memories or feelings of anxiety. As part of the Sunflower Programme, I work with a child’s subconscious brain, where sensory memories are stored, to help them overcome negative associations or behaviour patterns and build in more positive responses. This process has a much higher success rate in children who haven’t become ‘hard wired’ and are still learning. Early intervention is key!

I hear so many children use the words ‘I can’t.’ Well, it’s my belief that you can; it’s just about finding the right methods to help children believe this too. With Sunflower, I give them the toolkit they need to be confident and have conviction in themselves and their future.”

If you would like to find out how Sunflower can support your child, please call us on 0845 054 7509 or email All calls and emails are confidential.

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