Anxiety is a normal and sometimes lifesaving response to threat. In children, fears of strangers, heights, or water are common and can serve as protection from harm. Adolescents are frequently anxious about being embarrassed in social situations or about performing poorly on important tests or in athletic competitions.
Most parents learn how to help their child or teen cope with common fears, which usually come and go. Young children may need night lights, “protective” stuffed animals, and parental presence, while older children and teens may find it most helpful to talk about their fears.
When a child's or teen's anxiety persists and is severe enough to cause significant distress or interfere with daily life, an anxiety problem or disorder may develop. Early assessment and intervention can be key to treating and preventing childhood anxiety disorders.