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Our Blog: October 5, 2023

Anxiety in Young Children

The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting time for children. New friends, new classrooms, and new teachers. It can also lead to some unsettling feelings that are challenging or confusing to navigate. Some degree of anxiety in young children is appropriate. They will have fears that come and go throughout their lives and working through them is part of the natural human experience. When children encounter new situations, they need time to learn, explore, and acclimate.

Anxiety in children, especially young children, can reveal itself in many ways and scenarios.

Common situations that may cause anxiety:

  • Infants/Toddlers: Separation from caregivers, strangers, loud noises
  • 2 to 3 Years: Animals, darkness, thunderstorms, fire, water
  • 4 to 5 Years: Bugs, getting lost, monsters, death
  • 5 to 7 Years: Germs and illness, natural disasters, school

If your child encounters a situation which causes them anxiety, it’s natural for their fight or flight response to kick in and they may not know how to handle their feelings. This may result in anger, restlessness, tantrums, crying, fatigue, and excessive worrying or clinginess. Remind yourself that these feelings are normal.

Try these strategies to support your child:

  • Express positive, but realistic expectations
  • Be patient and provide reassurance
  • Discuss or name their feelings, but reframe from asking leading questions about their anxiety
    For example: “Are you scared to be in this class?”
  • Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety (ex: deep breathing, body mapping, square breathing, yoga, sensory activities, etc.)
  • Respect and validate their feelings
  • Acknowledge that their fears are real to them, taking care not to empower an amplified response
  • Continue to try new experiences; don’t avoid things completely just to avoid the response

The goal is not to eliminate your child’s anxiety, the goal is to help them manage it.

Encourage open communication to ensure your child feels comfortable sharing any feelings they may be having as they navigate new situations. This will support them through the adjustment period and encourage them to have a successful experience.