Early Childhood Worries and Anxieties
Jul 21, 2016
The worries and anxieties that pop up in young childhood can create roadblocks and meltdowns, throwing us as parents for a loop when we don’t see these events coming. New fears about haircuts, teachers, sleeping, or separations can creep up unexpectedly. New anxieties and fears are typical in young childhood and anxiety can be a very useful emotion if it is managed well.
The child’s impulse to master age-appropriate anxiety is a powerful incentive to learning. Mastery is possible when the child’s capacities are tested but not overwhelmed by the event lying ahead. Anxiety can be transformed into the pleasure of discovery as the child generates their own solutions.
What we know is that play is a major avenue for learning to manage anxiety as it creates a safe space for the child to experiment with real life scenarios, with them creating the narrative and even sometimes re-writing the ending. While playing, the child relives past events and through this process, they can alleviate any remaining anxiety and fear. This process resembles the relief we as adults can find through “talking things out” as the child has a chance to “play it out.”
Children get used to many situations that originally provoked their anxiety because they learn that the event is not associated with a frightening outcome, rather many events can be fun and enjoyable. Parents can help their child to play out their anxiety about a situation by giving them the space to do so without writing the script for them. Following your child’s lead and offering support are powerful tools in working through early anxieties.
However, if you find that your child’s anxieties are becoming a larger issue that creates intense fear and panic, and cannot be worked through using play, humor, or experimentation, it may be time to consult with your pediatrician and find a child therapist to help find new strategies to alleviate these anxieties.
This is an article by Parenting Educator, Melissa M.