All adults and children feel anxious and worried at times. Anxiety is a normal and natural occurrence. It’s part of life.

It can’t be allowed to become overwhelming or defining. Children can experience anxiety about different issues at different stages of their lives. For the most part, this is just one more element of growing up.

However, for many children, anxiety can be overwhelming and for many more it can be even more worrying and interfere with a child’s daily life. Severe anxiety can harm children’s mental and emotional wellbeing and affect their self-esteem and confidence. They may become withdrawn and avoid situations that could possibly make them feel anxious.

Not everyone recognises the signs of childhood anxiety. These can be many and varied. Children may not be sleeping well or sleeping for too long. They find it hard to concentrate. They might be angry and irritable. Most have a lack of confidence. They are unable to face and complete simple everyday challenges. They avoid normal everyday activities such as seeing friends, going out in public or going to school. Teenagers particularly can be anxious, making them avoid social gatherings.

There are trigger points for anxiety. It is rarely just one thing. These can include transitions to returning to school, starting secondary school, moving from the junior to the senior cycle or moving onto college or the beginning of their working life. There can be conflict with parents or teachers or friends. They might feel concerned before a test or exam. Some are shy in social situations. It can be even more difficult if they’re coping with bereavement, addiction, mental ill health, divorce or separation. The children might be homeless or in direct provision but they might also be in what seems to others to be the most normal and happy homes. Many children compare themselves unfavourably to their colleagues and school friends.

The sooner help and support is provided the better the chances of a successful intervention.

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