How anxiety manifests itself in childhood.
When talking about anxiety in childhood we must bear in mind that:
Anxiety is a normal emotion that children experience when they feel threatened by a danger that can be real or imagined.
Sometimes anxiety is not a normal and adaptive response, and it triggers unexpectedly, affecting the well-being of the child and interfering with their daily life.
Most children experience a variety of mild fears that vary with age, and overcome them as they get older.
When a child shows frequent signs of anxiety, it is necessary to seek professional advice to teach him to deal with those situations that cause him discomfort and to prevent future problems.
How do childhood fears evolve?
Normally, children have different fears that change according to age. The following list collects the most common childhood fears:
In the first year : Loud and unexpected noises, strange objects and people, separation from parents …
From 2 to 4 years: animals, darkness, separation from parents …
From 4 to 6 years old: darkness, imaginary beings, such as monsters and ghosts, being alone, animals, separation from parents …
From 6 to 9 years: physical injuries, physical damage, making a fool of yourself for lack of certain skills …
Adolescence: interpersonal relationships, school environment, physical appearance …
Factors involved in anxiety problems.
Hereditary predisposition : reflected in a person’s own temperament.
Stressful events : separation from parents, family financial difficulties, change of home or school, traumatic experience, rigid school environment …
Incorrect educational styles :
Anxious and overprotective parents who pass on their fears to their children.
Very demanding parents with very high expectations of their children.
Parents’ rejection of their children.
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is a normal and adaptive response of the human being when it anticipates some type of danger. If the answer is disproportionate and makes your family, school and / or social life difficult, we can talk about anxiety problems.
Fear in phobias has the following characteristics:
It is disproportionate to the frightening situation.
It does not disappear even if you try to explain it, and you are unable to control it.
It persists for a long period of time.
It does not correspond to the fears of his age.
It can interfere with normal activity.
Most common phobias.
Phobia of the dark: disproportionate fear of being in a dark room, which can produce strong anxiety in the child at bedtime.
Phobia of certain animals: intense and disproportionate fear of certain animals, which prevents the child from approaching any of them.
Phobia of doctors: intense and disproportionate fear of any medical situation, making it difficult for the child to receive health care and medical treatment.
School phobia: prolonged refusal to go to school, due to fear of something related to the school environment, the following symptoms may appear in the child:
Refuses to go to school.
Cries, screams and kicks while carrying him.
He complains of pain and illness when it is time to go to school, which disappear if he stays at home.
Manifest physical symptoms: headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea …
He thinks something unpleasant is going to happen at school.
You may have other nonspecific fears.
It is the anxiety that the child experiences when he is separated from the people to whom he is emotionally linked, usually his parents, and that is disproportionate to his level of development.
Symptoms of separation anxiety.
Exaggerated concern for their parents: that something bad happens to them, that they leave and do not come back …
He refuses to go to school or any other place for fear of being separated from them.
Refuses to stay home alone.
Refuses to sleep away from home.
Has frequent nightmares related to the separation issue.
You present physical complaints when you anticipate separation: headaches, abdominal pain, nausea …
It is the disproportionate anxiety and concern before various events.
Symptoms of excessive anxiety.
- Excessive worry about future events.
- Excessive concern about properly performing your tasks.
- Presents physical signs without organic cause: headaches, abdominal pain, nausea …
- Continual need to be told that you are doing well.
- He is tense and unable to relax.
Obsessive compulsive disorder
There is a presence of obsessions , which are repetitive and unwanted thoughts or mental images (fear of suffering harm, being in danger or catching a disease, obsession with order and cleanliness …), accompanied by compulsions , which are recurrent behaviors of the child to reduce the anxiety caused by his obsession (washing excessively, checking something repeatedly …).
How should parents act in the face of children’s fear and anxiety?
It is necessary that you help your child to develop skills that allow him to face the feared situation little by little, always transmitting security and tranquility.
You should avoid forcing him to face only what he fears, because it will cause him more anxiety and, therefore, a greater inability to face that fear. It is much more positive to force him to face the feared situation accompanied by you , because it will make him feel more secure and will encourage him to continue.
Fear and anxiety are learned . If the child observes in his closest environment that there are fearful situations, he will learn to be afraid and respond with anxiety.
You should avoid joking or disqualifying your child for their fears and concerns. But do not overreact either , overprotecting him, because he may think that there really is a danger. It is necessary that you convey your support to him, so that he feels that you understand him and you will help him overcome it.
Never punish your child because he does not know how to face a situation that causes fear. This would only increase your feelings of failure and promote low self-esteem.
Avoid resorting to tales of witches or men who harm children, as well as horror movies. Replace them with stories where children are victorious when faced with difficult situations.
It is necessary that you teach your child to fend for himself, so that he acquires security, autonomy and independence. Encourage him to make some decisions and do certain things, congratulating him on the achievements. This way you will show your trust.
If your child is young, it is difficult for him to verbally express to you what things worry him or cause him anxiety. Even so, it is necessary that you talk to him, to try to specify his concerns together and teach him to modify them.
If you notice that your child is experiencing an anxiety disorder, it is important that you go to a psychologist, so that he can make an assessment and carry out the most appropriate treatment.
If your child experiences frequent physical symptoms, it is necessary to see a pediatrician first, to determine if there is an organic cause, and if not, but the signs persist, it would be advisable to go to a psychologist .
It is necessary that, as parents, you reflect on the type of education prevailing in our society. On the one hand, too much is demanded of children by pretending that they carry out multiple educational and recreational activities, which can cause anxiety.
On the other hand, they are protected too much, tending to solve everything without demanding any kind of effort. Therefore, when they have to face a problem, they are very anxious not knowing how to do it.
It is difficult for a child to verbally express his anxiety and more often than not express it through his behavior.
For this reason, it is important to pay attention to certain signs of anxiety that your child may present and go if necessary, to a professional, to avoid negative consequences in the future.
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.