Phobias, Fears and Anxiety - Babies

Parents naturally want to protect their children against the terrors and pains this world can bring but unfortunately there are some things that we may not be able to protect our children from. Some of these life’s experience are difficult to avoid or prevent these events may lead to fears, anxiety or phobias.

Fear is a normal and healthy response to prepare us to deal with a potentially dangerous situation– fear triggers our adrenalin making us highly alert and ready for action. It is natural and healthy to be fearful of some things, in fact we need to teach young children to be aware of some dangers such as hot stoves, traffic and strangers to name a few, this fear helps them to stay safe. On the other hand it is a natural part of a baby’s development to become anxious around stranger and when separated from their parents. This commonly occurs around six to nine months of age.

What are phobias, fears and anxiety?

A phobia is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. This fear over takes the persons rational thought with an unreasonable desire to avoid that which is feared. A fear like this is much stronger than the risk of personal harm. When the fear is beyond one's control it will interfere with daily life. Anxiety is a generalized mood condition that can often occur without an identifiable triggering stimulus. That is the person may not be clear about what is worrying them. While fear is an emotional feeling that has a particular cause such as a particular situation, activity, thing, animal, or person. Fear triggers a number of changes in the body which is known as the flight or fight response. This causes the heart rate and breathing increase, the person may also feel shaky, turn pale, perspire or have an ‘butterflies’ in their stomach.

Abnormal fears

If you are concerned your child has problem with fear or has a phobia there are certain things you can look for.

Things to look for if you are concerned that your child’s fear has become a problem? · Is this fear a reasonable reaction to a situation? · Is the fear interfering with the child’s everyday life or that of the family?

Normal fears

It is normal for parents to be concerned about their children's fears and anxieties. No two children are alike in their fears or worries and their reactions to situations may vary enormously. We can’t always shield our children from these situations as most children are worried and fearful about something sometime during their lives. So what we can do as parents is to help our children overcome their fears and gain the confidence they need to be able to face their fears and worries? Firstly let’s take a look at some of the common fears children face during their early years of life.

Common Fears of Babies

All babies have an inherent fear response to anything unfamiliar or unusual this can be a sudden loud noises, rapid movements or heights. When a baby is afraid or frightened they will cry this is to attract their parent’s attention so that they will be rescued. As previously mentioned around six to nine months a child will often experience separation or stranger anxiety. Separation anxiety This is when a baby who is usually friendly, happy and smile at anyone may for a period of time become clingy in preference for their parents or main caregiver. At around seven to eight months, they may become very upset if you are, at anytime, out if their sight for even a short time. Babies that are able to crawl will constantly be following you around. This separation anxiety is due to their lack of understanding. They feel that when you leave them you may never return. In general a child will try to draw you back to themselves through a cry of protest. If this fails, louder protests may follow or the child may lose interest in their play, winge, whine or throw a tantrum. Severe anxiety often occurs if a parent has been away from home for long periods of time which is often the case when mum leaves to have another baby in hospital. Stranger anxiety Not all babies have a fear of strangers, but most do for a shot time in their lives with some children it can last until they are 2 years old. This fear of strangers may also include people they have know well, such as grandparents. Fear of strangers is most common with people they have little or infrequent contact with outside the immediate family.

Ways to help prevent fears

Some fears are taught or copied from parents or sibling. One of the most common fears, the fear of the dark can actually be taught to a child by a unsuspecting parent. It may start innocently and end up being a learned fear. Mothers often leave a light on overnight so that she can check on the baby while it sleeps. This is fine but if the light continues to remain on overnight it may become something the child becomes accustomed to and when you finally decide to turn it of the child may become very unhappy. This can eventually cause the child to be scared of the dark. It is better to turn the light off when the child is only a few months old to avoid this problem. It is not always possible to know what may trigger fear but we can help children overcome their.

Ways you can help your baby overcome these fears

Never force your baby to go to a stranger, always allow baby to observe the person first from the security of your arms.

Ask the person you are introducing to the child to observe the child’s personal space and not to speak directly to the child until the child relaxes. Once the child has made their observation of the person and depending on their assumptions are willing to be released from their parent’s arms, they may then observe the person for a distance before approaching them or allowing them to approach. Reassure grandparents, whose natural tendency is to smother a child with love that they will need to be patient with the child who will gradually grow out of this phase. It is all part of growing up and learning about how to deal with this big world around them. If people force themselves upon the child it will only make matters worse. Remind the adults to think of the child’s feeling before their own.

Note your own feelings towards a person as a child can often pick up on your feelings for a person and in response feel safe or anxious. When the main child caregiver needs to leave a child with a minder it is wise to allow the child to get to know the minder before being left alone with them. This can be done with short periods of separation which can gradually be increased to longer periods. During these times, whether the child is being cared at home on in another environment, it is it is suggested that the carer keeps to the child’s routine as much as possible. It is also important that the caregiver gives the child special attention and care to help the child feel secure and safe.

Next month I would like to take a look at Phobias, Fears and Anxiety in Young Children.

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All articles on this website have a copyright.  The use of any material must have permission from Cradle 2 Kindy Parenting Solutions.

Disclaimer: Articles on our website are for education purposes only.  Please consult with your doctor to make sure this information is right for your child.