Everyone, right from a toddler to an adult
experiences anxiety at one time or the other in their life and it is closely
related to fear which is another normal and necessary emotion that everyone
experiences. Anxiety is often associated with an anticipated fear of something
happening in future and is very common among children between ages 2 to 6
years. There are various kinds of anxieties in children and their nature keeps
changing with the child’s growth.
- Just born kids experience
“Stranger Anxiety” when confronted by people they don’t recognise and are often
seen clinging to parents/people they see on a regular basis.
- At toddler
stage, a child experiences “Separation Anxiety” when one or both the parents
leave the child in the environment he is not used to.
- Children in the
age group of 4 to 7 have anxiety for things that don’t exist in reality but
terrifies them like ghosts, monsters and zombies.
- “Social anxiety” is seen in
many children as young as 2 years and they often have the fear of meeting and
interacting with people and often have few friends outside the family.
What causes anxiety/phobia/fear?
makeup of a child:
many other traits that a child picks up from his/her parents, anxiety is also
one such trait that genetically gets transmitted to a child and are born with
anxious temperament and seem to be anxious of many situations without any
Transitions in the family:
the child grows up, he goes through a lot of transitions in the family that
could range from addition of a new member in the family to the loss of an
existing one. Anxiety can develop through transition from staying at home to
going to school and making new friends and mastering new tasks.
Disturbing incidents in the past -
family goes through multiple phases of life and there; will be instances where
parents might separate leaving the child in a confused and a traumatised state.
In many of the cases a child gets disturbed both mentally and physically when
two families (staying together as an extended family) gets separated after a
long time of staying together. Extended separation from the family members can
also add to the levels of anxiety.
incidents in the past - External:
are various external factors that can mentally affect the child especially when
he/she is growing up in a place where there is a probability of community
violence, natural disasters etc.
from the above mentioned broader categories, there may be various other reasons
that can make a child anxious, but not in a healthier way. Recurrence of such
behaviour can help a parent identify them and take necessary steps to overcome
Your toddler cries
as soon as she sees you starting to leave !
He/she hates to say goodbye because you won’t be seen around.
What’s going on?
The first sign of this major developmental milestone
will be an anxious reaction to unfamiliar people. As your pre-schooler begins
to realise, that you are not there by his side, the anxiety steps in and peaks with
the duration of 10 – 18 months. Separation anxiety is a common developmental
phase which triggers the development of two common fears: a fear of strangers
and a fear of being separated from you. This happens mostly when parents are
the only caregivers and children tend to trust only on the caregivers. Hence goodbyes
tend to confuse and upset them.
Having a few coping strategies can help the
child overcome the anxiety. Following are some tips that can help you prepare
your child for separation?
introduce her/him to new situations and people. This will minimise her/his
reactions and acclimatise to new places or people and may eventually give her
an assurance her that this is normal.
your baby knows that she/he has other caregivers. Give her/him time to play or
talk with the caregiver and get comfortable. Babies who are used to having
other caregivers get over separation anxiety faster when they enter the
preschool or kindergarten stage or are admitted into a new playschool.
goodbyes lighter and quicker. Don’t prolong goodbyes or resort to sneaking out.
It’s best to let your child know you’re going and that you’ll be back soon.
a trial. If you’re leaving your toddler in a day care centre/playschool or plan
to leave with a caregiver, first try out for an hour or so. As your baby becomes familiar with the place
and the people, you can extend the timing. Eventually, your child will get used
to it and will remember that you return after you leave.
thumb rule is don’t linger or turn-around to get a quick look while you are leaving.
Also, once you leave the baby, don’t go back again to check her/him. This will
only make it harder on her/him. You can just call and check if she/he is
your promises. It's important that you don’t make false promises. When you have
promised to return, follow through it. This is how your child will develop
confidence and cope with the separation. This also helps kid develop coping skills and
begins to learn the fundamental of what is once committed needs to be followed
is everything. Don’t start a day care when the separation anxiety is at its peak
i.e. between the age of 8 months to 1 year. And never force the child to go to
someone if she doesn't want to. When you do this, child's stranger anxiety will
evolve into full-fledged separation anxiety. Let her make acquaintances at her
stranger anxiety can be a good sign that you and your child have a healthy
attachment, which is essential for emotional development.
To understand this phenomena better listen to Oi
Playschool’s Expert talk by clicking here: http://bit.ly/2dz14qS