Anxieties, Fears & Phobias

Many Anxieties and Fears Are Normal

Many Anxieties and Fears Are Normal

Anxieties, Fears & Phobias

Feeling anxious in a particularly uncomfortable situation never feels very good. However, with kids, such feelings are not only normal, they’re also necessary. Dealing with anxieties can prepare young people to handle the unsettling experiences and challenging situations in life.

Having fears or anxieties about certain things can also be helpful because it makes kids behave in a safe way. For example, a kid with a fear of fire would avoid playing with matches.

The nature of anxieties and fears changes as kids grow and develop:

• Babies experience stranger anxiety, clinging to parents when confronted by people they don’t recognize.

• Toddlers around 10 to 18 months old experience separation anxiety, becoming emotionally distressed when one or both parents leave.

• Kids ages 4 through 6 have anxiety about things that aren’t based in reality, such as monsters and ghosts.

• Kids ages 7 through 12 often have fears that reflect real circumstances which could happen to them, such as bodily injury and natural disasters.

Signs of Anxiety

If anxious feelings persist, they can take a toll on a child’s sense of well-being. The anxiety associated with social avoidance can have long-term effects. For example, a child with a fear of being rejected can fail to learn important social skills, causing social isolation.

Many adults are tormented by fears that stem from childhood experiences. It’s important for parents to recognize and identify the signs and symptoms of kids’ anxieties so that fears don’t get in the way of everyday life.

Some signs that a child may be anxious about something may include:• Becoming clingy, impulsive or distracted• Nervous movements, such as temporary twitches• Problems getting to sleep and/or staying asleep longer than usual• Sweaty hands• Accelerated heart rate and breathing• Nausea• Headaches• StomachachesWhat's a Phobia?

When anxieties and fears persist, problems can arise. As much as a parent hopes the child will grow out of it, sometimes the opposite occurs, and the cause of the anxiety looms larger and becomes more prevalent. The anxiety becomes a phobia, or a fear that’s extreme, severe and persistent.

“Real” phobias are one of the top reasons kids are referred to mental-health professionals. The good news is that, unless the phobia hinders the everyday ability to function, the child sometimes won’t need treatment by a professional because, in time, the phobia will be resolved.

Helping Your Child

Parents can help kids develop the skills and confidence to overcome fears so they don’t evolve into phobic reactions.

To help your child deal with fears and anxieties:

• Recognize that the fear is real. As trivial as a fear may seem, it feels real to your child and it’s causing him or her to feel anxious and afraid. Being able to talk about fears helps.

• Never belittle the fear as a way of forcing your child to overcome it.

• Don’t cater to fears, though.

• Teach kids how to rate fear. A child who can visualize the intensity of the fear on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest, may be able to “see” the fear as less intense than first imagined.

• Teach coping strategies. Relaxation techniques are helpful, including visualization and deep breathing.

The key to resolving fears and anxieties is to overcome them. Using these suggestions, you can help your child better cope with life’s situations.