Anxiety is a normal emotional state that we all experience at various times in our lives. It is closely related to fear, which is another normal and necessary emotion that everyone experiences. Kathy Eugster offers insight on the subject of children’s anxiety and how to help here on this page of her site.

We need to be fearful of certain situations in order to protect ourselves from danger. Some words used to describe different states of fear include frightened, scared, afraid, panicky and terrified. It is normal and beneficial for a person to experience fear when faced with real and immediate danger, for example when being chased by a dangerous animal.

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Anxiety is usually associated with anticipated fear of something happening in the future. Some words used to describe different states of anxiety include worried, concerned, anxious, nervous, tense, shy and cautious. Anxiety is normal and beneficial when we are faced with a difficult situation. For example, it is normal for us to feel anxious before a test or speaking in front of a group of people, and our anxiety helps us to prepare for the difficult task.

Anxiety Can be Overlooked in Children

Children experience various states of fear and anxiety from the moment they are born. Sometimes it is easy to tell if a child is anxious by their crying and clinging behaviors. But sometimes, it is difficult to identify anxiety in children. Some children hide their anxiety because it is too difficult for them to express it to others. Some children turn their anxiety into angry tantrums or defiant behaviors.

Divorce and Separation Could Lead to Anxiety

Sources of anxiety for children arise from normal life and family transitions. Children go through many changes and transitions as they and their families grow and mature. For example the birth of a sibling, starting school, divorce of parents, moving to a new home, death of an elderly grandparent, becoming accepted by a peer group, and mastering tasks in and out of school can all be stressful and anxiety-provoking for children.

In addition, difficult or even traumatic events that are out of the ordinary can happen to a child with the likelihood that anxiety will increase for that child. For example, parental conflict and separation, illness or injury of the child or the child’s family members, the unexpected death of a close family member, extended separations from parents, family or community violence, and natural disasters are all difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences for children to go through.


About Kathy Eugster

Kathy Eugster, MA, RCC, CPT-S, is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and a Certified Play Therapist – Supervisor.

For the past sixteen years she has run a private counselling practice seeing children three to twelve years old and their parents for a variety of emotional and behavioral problems, including issues related to past trauma.

Kathy was the recipient of the 2013 Monica Herbert Award for contributing to the field of play therapy in Canada. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Association for Child and Play Therapy. Kathy is the author of numerous articles on child and parent relationships which are available on her website. She publishes an on-line newsletter, Parent-Child Connections, on a regular basis.