Children and youth can experience anxiety from a young age, which can interfere with learning.

Mental health challenges and disorders have many different signs and symptoms and can look different in different people. Children and youth can experience anxiety differently than adults.

It is important for adults to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in young people and take action. Schools and parents can work together to support children and youth.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition in children and youth. One in four children experience significant anxiety at some point in their lives.

Anxiety means feeling worried, nervous or fearful. We all experience anxiety at times and some anxiety can be helpful and helps us function well. For example, feeling anxiety before a test, interview or public-speaking event can help you prepare for it.

Children and youth often have many more fears than adults do as they try to make sense of their world. Most childhood fears are normal and go away eventually. It is important to think about the child’s age and what is common at that stage when considering whether a child’s anxiety is becoming a problem.

Anxiety disorders describe a group of related mental illnesses. There are several main types of anxiety disorders, including separation anxiety, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and specific phobias.

What role can schools play in addressing a student's anxiety?

The role of the school is to ensure that all students, including children with mental health issues, have equitable access to learning opportunities, and to help them succeed educationally to the best of their abilities.

Schools can create supportive and caring environments to promote positive mental health. School staff can also be aware of the signs and symptoms of anxiety and link students and families to health professionals and resources. It can help to know more about what to expect from your child’s school.

What role can parents play in helping manage their child's anxiety?

Parents can play a vital role in the education of their children by working in partnership with professionals to develop a plan that maximizes their child’s ability to succeed at school.

Parents are advised to follow these guidelines for managing their child’s mental health in a school setting: keep in regular contact with their child’s school, be proactive about any concerns, and be aware of everything in your child’s school file.

The Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre also has some good resources on how parents and families can pull together to help a child with depression or mental health issues, including family toolkits and videos available in multiple languages.