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Worry and Anxiety in Early Childhood

Worry and Anxiety in Early Childhood

Did you know that a child feeling anxious is a normal part of child development? It is important as a parent or carer to acknowledge your child’s fears, and the situations that are causing them. Some examples may be:

  • Fear of the dark
  • Fear of loud noises (e.g a lawn mower)
  • Scared of strangers or new people
  • Separation anxiety (e.g when dropping your child off at childcare)

Often, these fears are temporary and will fade away with time. Conquering these anxieties will sometimes involve facing them head-on. For example, using a public restroom where loud hand dryers may startle young children.

‘Fear’ usually happens in the present; responding to situations as they happen, whereas ‘worry’ will more often occur in older children when they can think ahead into the future and what may go ‘wrong’.

Talking to your child about their fears is an essential step in helping relieve these feelings. Encourage your child to do things they feel anxious about and use plenty of encouragement and positive language to support and praise them. Do not criticise them for being afraid; show empathy and encourage them to talk about their feelings. It may be useful to remind children that even though they are scared, they will be okay. Using open-ended questions such as “How do you feel about this?” rather than the close-ended “Are you worried about this?” is also a helpful approach.

You may remember worry dolls from your own childhood! These are a great tool to use with a fearful child and can help provide comfort. The idea of using them is for children to tell their dolls all about what is worrying them, then place them under their pillow when they go to sleep. You can tell your child that their worries will be gone in the morning when they wake, as the dolls take the worries away and replace them with the courage and wisdom to face their fears.

These tiny dolls can be purchased or handmade – and may be a great project to work on as a family while discussing emotions and fears!

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