Anxiety and Stress in Children

Anxiety and Stress in Children 


Children's mental health can be seen in their ability to cope with the world around them. Anxiety is when you don't feel okay; you may feel afraid or worried. It is normal for your child to feel nervous when:

  • It's their first day of school
  • A test is coming up 
  • They have to talk to a lot of people
  • They go to crowded places

Sometimes kids have feelings of worry that are too much for them to handle. You may also feel like you can't help your child on your own. Anxiety can be handled, but if left alone it can go on into the adult years.

Signs of a bigger problem are when they:

  • Have a constant or extreme worry
  • Withdraw from activities
  • Have a hard time sleeping
  • Have physical complaints such as stomach-aches, headaches, and being tired

If you think your child has a problem coping with anxiety, there is help.


Children suffer from stress too. Stress is the way that our body reacts to different problems and challenges in our lives. Children do not have as much experience handling stress as an adult. Sometimes, small things or events can cause stress in children.

Some possible stressful situations for young children include:

  • A new baby in the family
  • A change in routine or feeling insecure
  • A new school, teacher or bus driver
  • Overstimulation
  • Learning a new skill
  • Making a choice when there are too many choices

Stress can show itself in different ways. Physical signs of stress include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach-aches
  • Loss or increase in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
  • Emotional changes like anger, sadness, crankiness or whining

 How can you help reduce the stress that your child is feeling?

  • Set a good example of how to deal with stress and be aware of your own stress
  • Be sensitive to your child's feelings
  • Be aware that children may overhear parents discussing or arguing about a problem
  • Discuss issues when you are feeling calm and in control
  • Set limits on the number of organized activities your child does
  • Have steady routines
  • Provide a safe and secure home life

 How to help your child deal with stress:

  • Give them cuddle time.
  • Talk to them in a calm soothing voice.
  • Dim the lights to lower the level of stimulation.
  • Tell your child a story that is close to what your child is going through. Ask them to tell you how the person in the story is feeling. This may help them express what they are feeling.
  • Listen to their feelings first, then choose how you will respond to their behaviour.
  • Have your child draw a picture of their feelings.
  • Have quiet time- reading, making a craft, or a puzzle. Children will often talk about a problem when given the chance.

Remember that children need to learn how to cope with small amounts of stress. As a parent, your job is to show them love, teach them and keep them safe.

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.

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