This month I am taking a look at Phobias, Fears and Anxiety in Young Children and next month I will look at tips to help your children overcome their fears.
Anxiety disorders are very common. One in four people will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives. We all feel anxious at times but some people are unable to control their anxiety it becomes so overwhelming that it affects their everyday activities making it difficult for them to cope.
Types of Anxiety disorders in children
There several types of anxiety disorders the most common in children are:
Generalised Anxiety disorder (GAD) - This is a feeling of being constantly anxious or worried.
Panic Disorder – An intense feeling of anxiety or panic attack which cannot be brought under control easily.
Social Phobia – when a child has a fear of failure, of being criticised or humiliated
Specific Phobias – being fearful of particular objects or situations.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - this is caused by unwanted or intrusive thoughts and fears which cause anxiety. The anxiety are brought under control by carrying out certain rituals.
Common Fears of Toddlers
Toddlers love routines. Routines can often bring security and familiarity which help toddlers to feel safe or to help them deal with their fears. Knowing what is expected of you and what is coming next can help prevent childhood anxieties. This is often seen with a child who requests the same story every night or the same cup and plate to eat off.
Because young children do not have our understanding of the world as we do they may develop fears or become upset over things such being flushed away with the water going down the toilet or going down the plughole with the bathwater. This stems from their lack of understanding of size, space and time. If a child has a particular fear you may be able to avoid or change the situation for a short time and reintroduce them to it slowly over a longer period. Another idea is to make a fearful situation into one of fun. Place a small plastic ball in the toilet and watch it bounce around but not get flushed down. Have a shower with dad instead of a bath or bath in a large plastic bowl.
Around the age of 2-3 years toddlers are hyper sensitive to their emotions. This period can be quite frightening for them until they learn how to bring them under control. New thing or environment may seem very frightening, even if we see them as no risk at all.
They can also be fearful of other people’s powerful emotions and burst into tears when a parent shows anger or despair. In the heart of all toddlers is the desire to please those they love. Some toddlers are perfectionist by nature these children may feel angry at themselves when they have displeased or disappointed themselves or their parents. Talk to them gently and try to find out what has made them feel this way, reassure them that they are loved for who they are and not for what they do or do not do. Let them know it is alright to feel angry sometimes but also make sure they understand that when they are angry it is not alright to hurt themselves or others or to let anyone hurt them.
Common Fears of Young Children
Fear may be cause by a variety of events:
The most commonly cause of fear stem from the unknown – new or strange situations, and things we cannot understand or control. A child is constantly facing new and unfamiliar situations which to some children can be overwhelming and fearful.
Fear can also be a learned behaviour. A child may observe and respond to another person’s reaction – such as a parent who is fearful of dogs, spiders or heights.
Fear may have resulted from a frightening event where the child themselves personal experience something that terrified or harmed them such as an angry dog bitting them.
Then there is imaginary fear that can be caused by hearing scary stories or watching inappropriate TV programs. Children under the age of seven are unable to distinguish the difference between fiction, fantasy and reality and see all as reality. This is why all stories books and TV should be closely monitored for children under seven. Including graphic new stories on TV. Their vivid imagination and these images and impressions can also lead to nightmares. A child’s imaginations can also create their own fears such as monsters which can then lead to a fear of the dark. Parents can inadvertently exacerbate this situation by leaving a night light on which can reinforce their 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?
Anxiety disorders are common, but the sooner you get help, the sooner you can help you child learn to control these conditions so that they do not control your child.
Next month I will look at tips to help your children overcome their fears.
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Disclaimer: Article on our website are for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor to make sure this information is right for your child.