Even very young children can experience anxiety but often can’t explain or rationalise it. Many behaviour problems in young children (and often older children too) can be down to underlying fear, worry or frustration which children find difficult to articulate and might be expressed as tantrums, ‘melt-downs” or behaviour such as biting.

Helping your child cope with anxiety – a short video with expert advice from the Maudsley Hospital Charity
NHS choices: summary of common symptoms of anxiety, causes, advice and treatments
Seven techniques for helping kids feel calm again from CBeebies
Ten better ways to help an anxious child calm down: article from Psychology Today- sensible ideas that you can easily try straight away
Advice for anxiety in toddlers and pre-schoolers including phobias



Separation anxiety is completely normal in younger children (from about 6 months onwards) and shows they have a secure relationship with their parents, but some children will find it harder than others to learn to separate when starting school or nursery. 

A useful explanation, some top tips and a video can be found here and in this video on ParentChannel featuring interviews with parents and children. This link aimed at childcare workers, also has some tips for parents leaving their child at nursery or pre-school.


Books and more

  • The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright. A lovely, soothing book to explain anxiety to little worriers
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst. A picture book on separation anxiety (or loss) that is excellent for ages 3-7 years. 
  • Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival. A beautifully illustrated little book to help your child talk about feeling anxious.
  • The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright. A book about coping with change and overcoming worries.
  • A Boy and a Bear by Lori Lite. Children’s relaxation book ideal for ages 3-4 yrs, can be used with a small group of children e.g. in pre-school or nursery to try and teach some simple breathing techniques. 
  • What to do when you don’t want to be apart: A kids’ guide to overcoming separation anxiety by K Lavalee for ages 4+ years. 
  • Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival
  • Relaxation for young children: ‘Relax like a cat’ Follow this mood cafe link for an illustrated step-by-step relaxation leaflet which also can be downloaded as an audio file. Takes young children through sequences of breathing, tensing and relaxing muscles by imagining themselves to be a cat!
  • Sesame Street “Breathe” App (US)This is a fun little interactive App for dealing with common toddler/younger child scenarios which can lead to worry or frustration e.g. feeling anxious about going to nursery/school or getting frustrated putting on shoes, by teaching kids to stop, take a breath and think of solutions. Choice of Spanish or English. The link will take to a review of the App on ‘Common Sense Media’. It’s free and available for Apple or Android.