Learning about early anxieties - II

          

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.

Is it ok to be anxious?

Identifying anxieties in children is not an easy job always. Sometimes, an anxious child can show symptoms like crying and clinging behaviours and are usually seen in new born kids. But not many children are expressive; most of them try to hide their feelings as they find it too difficult to express it to others and may end up in to angry tantrums or insolent behaviours. All these anxieties if short lived are considered to be normal and parents need not worry as they will reduce over a period of time. In fact, being anxious is beneficial especially when facing a difficult situation and helps a child in preparing to face it.

When a child is very young, fear and anxiety is accepted. But, as a child grows all the fear and anxieties that were considered normal at the younger age may seem less appropriate and might need your immediate attention.

Symptoms of an over anxious child:

  • Tantrums and restless behaviour
  • Negative thinking and self-criticism with over exaggeration of situations
  • Continuous fear of unknown things/situation
  • Shows discomfort in socialising with other kids
  • Too much of perfectionism
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Lack of concentration
  • Very demanding 

When anxiety prevents a child from enjoying a normal life and interferes in their day to day life, as a parent you can help your child overcome it by following the below steps:

Help your child overcome anxiety:

  • Take care of your child’s daily needs and plan a daily schedule that meets the child’s basic needs and avoid sudden changes.
  • There are various emotions and feelings that a child has to understand. You can help your child identify and differentiate feelings through his/her own body like butterflies in the stomach, tight hands, cold feet and etc.
  • Give an ear to your child’s feelings and never discourage their feelings.
  • Make your child feel that you are there with him/her in every situation by expressing yourself through cuddling, singing, storytelling and many more.
  • Respect your child’s fears
  • You are your child’s role model; always showcase a brave behaviour in front of your child.
  • Teach relaxation skills like deep and slow breathing.
  • Encourage “Feel Good” activities
  • Teach Problem-solving strategies 
Not to forget, every child is different and will require different methods of overcoming anxiety/fear. Allow your child a lot of time to express his/her negative thoughts around anxiety/fear/phobia before you could come out with more ways of overcoming the anxious behaviour.

Learning about early anxieties - I

                

Anxiety/Phobia:

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?

Genetic makeup of a child:


Like 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 external influence. 

Transitions in the family:

As 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 - Internal:

Every 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. 

Disturbing incidents in the past - External:

There 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.

Apart 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 it.