What are typical worries?
There are many different types of worries that children and adolescents may experience at different points in their lives. Worries are usually related to the challenges and experiences children and adolescents are going through at each developmental stage. Some typical worries are:
Being hurt physically
"Bad people" that could do them harm
Imagined or pretend things and creatures (e.g., ghosts, witches, or other supernatural beings)
Being or sleeping alone
Being left alone
Beginning to worry about death and real-life dangers that could harm them, or people they care about
Beginning to worry about school performance, including tests and exams
Death and getting injured
Beginning to worry about physical appearance and making friends
Physical appearance and image
Fitting in and being accepted by peers
Performance on different activities (e.g., sports, school, hobbies, etc.)
Beginning to worry about the future, including career choices or accomplishing life goals
When should I be concerned about a child’s worries?
The best way to differentiate worries that typically occur during development from those that elicit concern is frequency, intensity, context, and impact on daily lives. For example, when a child feels anxiety that lasts a long time and prevents them from doing things, like going to school or seeing friends, it becomes more concerning. Also, worries that occur most days of the week and that occur several times a day may also be indicating that clinical attention is needed.
Worries and anxiety are also typically accompanied by other difficulties that may indicate a problem could be present. Here are some common signs:
- Inattention or trouble focusing.
- Disruptive behaviors, such as tantrums, or mood swings and irritability.
- Asking many questions, including repetitive ones.
- Getting into arguments.
- Complaining about stomach aches, or other physical problems before seemingly normal activities (e.g., going to school).
- Avoiding typical and day-to-day situations.
- Being clingy around caregivers.
- Trouble sleeping.
What can I do to help a child with excessive worries?
Caregivers know their children best. If you are a caregiver, there are a few things you may attempt:
- Talk to your child. Talk to your child about their worries and anxiety without sounding worried. Let your child know that you want to understand what they are thinking and feeling.
- Listen to what your child says. While some worries can be unrealistic or unimportant for adults, they are real and important for children and adolescents. So, before you bring any solutions to your child's worries, try to listen and understand what is distressing them and acknowledge that you are trying to understand their point of view.
- Demonstrate problem solving. Without disregarding your child's point of view, you may try helping them to think about factual reasons why they may be worrying, and then help them to find realistic ways to worry less.
- Encourage your child to engage in a healthy lifestyle—the body and mind are strongly connected. Eating the right food, exercising, and getting enough sleep can have a positive impact on an individual’s mood and help with the worrying.
- Whenever possible and with support, expose your child to the thing that makes them worry. When you know your child's worries, propose to be with your child while facing what they are worried about. For instance, if a child is worried about attending a new school, you may arrange to bring them there before the first day to explore or arrange for them to know the place and meet some classmates ahead of time.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems your child is facing persist, it may be time to seek out professional support.
Excessive worries that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by children the same age, and that negatively interfere with your child and family’s daily lives, may indicate the possibility of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
What kind of professional support can I seek out for help?
It is not unusual that some caregivers feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if their child is struggling with excessive worries and anxiety. But, if you are concerned about your child's worries and anxiety, support and guidance are available now. Communicate concerns during and between visits with your child's or teen’s doctor.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful. These professionals also work with caregivers so that they know how to support their children outside of therapy sessions.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.