Anxiety 101: What You and Your Child Need to Know About Anxiety

Anxiety is normal. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. It alerts us to threats, protects us from danger and helps us reach important goals. For example, it is normal to feel anxious when encountering a bear on a hike, or before taking an important exam.

Anxiety is not dangerous. Although anxiety feels uncomfortable, it is temporary and will eventually decrease. The sensations we experience in an anxious situation are designed to alert and activate us. They are normal and part of our body’s natural response mechanism. Our body is smart enough to know when to “amp up” and when to “calm down.”

Anxiety is adaptive. Anxiety helps us prepare for real danger, such as crossing a busy street. It can also help us perform at our best, and motivate us to study for an exam or practice for a big game. When we experience anxiety, it triggers our "fight-flight-freeze" response, and prepares our body to react. For instance, our heart beats faster to pump blood to our muscles, so we have the energy to run away or fight off danger. Without it, we would not survive. We need some anxiety.

Anxiety is part of life. Trying to eliminate anxiety from your child's life is almost impossible, and even if it were possible, we are not sure you will have created a life worth living for your child. As a result, this website has been designed to provide you and your child with information, tools, resources, and more, to help your child become an expert on coping with anxiety. Since anxiety is everywhere, one of the greatest gifts you can give your anxious child or teen is the confidence and skill to tolerate anxiety whenever it occurs, and to continue living his/her life anyway!

Anxiety can become a problem. Small doses of anxiety in certain situations are useful. However, when your child is worrying much of the time, avoiding fun activities, or refusing to go to school because s/he is scared or worried, anxiety has become a problem. Think of anxiety like fog: if it covers everything, makes it hard to see, stops you from doing what you usually do, and generally gets in the way, then it has likely become a problem.

For more information on how to explain anxiety to your child, see "How to talk to your Child about Anxiety"