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Empowering Unique Learners
child with anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Children often contend with feelings of anxiety, and these feelings can extend – or can even originate from – the school setting. Whether it’s the pressure to perform well academically or the unease of social interactions, these concerns can quietly affect their mental health. 
It is important to understand the various anxiety disorders and their signs, so you can support the child and seek early intervention. In general, if children haven’t outgrown fears or worries typical in toddlers or preschoolers, or if their fears and worries interfere with school, home or play activities, it may be time to have them evaluated for anxiety disorder.

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

  • Separation anxiety – being very afraid when away from parents
  • Phobias – having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or doctor visits
  • Social anxiety – being very afraid of school and other places where there are people
  • Selective mutism – having difficulty speaking in some settings, such as to a teacher at school
  • General anxiety – having fears about the future and about bad things happening
  • Panic disorder – having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that is accompanied by symptoms like a pounding heart, trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky or sweaty

Please note:

Children with anxiety disorders may not demonstrate all - or even many - of the behaviors listed here.


Understanding these manifestations is crucial for educators and caregivers alike. By creating a supportive atmosphere, we can offer comfort to those navigating internal struggles. Early identification and intervention can equip children with coping skills. 

family with anxious child

Parents and educators should understand that anxiety in children is a common and normal experience, but it is essential to recognize when it becomes overwhelming or interferes with daily life.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Variety of Manifestations: Anxiety can present itself in various ways, including physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches, emotional reactions such as irritability or tearfulness, or behavioral changes like avoidance or seeking constant reassurance.
  • Seeking Professional Help: If anxiety significantly impacts a child's functioning or persists over time, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor is advisable. Early intervention can prevent anxiety from escalating and help children develop effective coping strategies. Parents should normalize the idea of seeking help for mental health issues. Just as they would seek medical attention for a physical ailment, seeking therapy or counseling for anxiety is a proactive step toward mental well-being.
Teen in therapy
  • Avoidance vs. Coping: While it may be tempting to shield children from situations that trigger anxiety, it's important to teach them healthy coping mechanisms instead. Avoidance can reinforce anxiety, whereas facing fears gradually can build resilience. Empowering children to manage their anxiety fosters confidence and self-efficacy.
  • Communication is Key: Encouraging open and non-judgmental communication is essential. Parents should create a safe space for their children to express their feelings and concerns without fear of criticism.
  • Triggers and Context:
    boy with anxiety
    Identifying triggers or situations that provoke anxiety is crucial. It could be academic pressure, social interactions, transitions, or specific events. Understanding these triggers can help parents offer appropriate support. 
  • Modeling Coping Skills: Parents play a crucial role in modeling healthy coping skills and managing their stress. Children often mirror their parents' behavior, so demonstrating positive ways to handle stress can be beneficial.

Understanding Anxiety

Many times, anxiety stems from a learning disorder or other neurodivergence. Children who have trouble learning but don’t yet have a diagnosis and/or appropriate accommodations can feel like there is something wrong with them, or like they aren’t as smart as their peers. This can cause severe school anxiety, and result in them pulling away both academically and socially. Once these challenges are identified, and accommodations are granted, students can rebuild that confidence that will lessen their anxiety.

If you are concerned that your child is exhibiting signs of anxiety, talk with their pediatrician or a mental health professional to schedule an evaluation.