What were you scared of when you were a kid? Was it clowns, or maybe big dogs, or thunder? When I was younger, I was terrified of aliens. I’d watched one too many alien invasion horror films and became fixated on the idea that aliens would come abduct us. I spent lots of nights worrying over this, but eventually, I just forgot about it. This wasn’t such a bad fear, but there are times that our kid’s fears and anxieties are trying to tell us something more. So when should we pay attention to our children’s fears?
As parents, it’s difficult to always tend to our child’s every need. If your toddler is randomly anxious because his yellow crayon and blue crayon are in the same box, chances are they’re just being a toddler. You can help them out by removing one or both crayons and most of the time, they’ll accept the outcome of your intervention and move on to the next activity, completely unfazed. That's, arguably, one of the great "joys" of toddlerhood; it's difficult, at times, to differentiate between what's more serious, and what's just a toddler being, well, a toddler,
Still, no matter how hard it is to differentiate at times, more pronounced, more frequent fears and anxieties should never go overlooked. They should also never be belittled or ignored, as it might cause the child to pull away from you when they might need you most. If your kid’s fears are causing them any of the following things, you’ll definitely want to pay closer attention.
When It Prompts Them To Frequently Miss School
If your child is already in school and is developing major anxiety surrounding the experience, you’ll want to pay close attention. Perhaps they’re having problems with a friend or being bullied by classmates — both instances you could help with by giving solid advice and lending an ear. If they’re struggling with the class material, you could help them yourself or obtain a tutor to assist them with certain lessons that are causing them trouble and, in turn, some anxiety.
When They Don’t Want To Say Hello To Someone
Kids should never be forced to do things they don’t want to do (save for in the event of a medical emergency or if they’re in danger). This goes double for being forced to say hello or give a hug or kiss. If a child is expressing anxiety over being asked to do this, acknowledge their reaction and make sure not to pressure them.
When They Really Don’t Want To Stay With Their Babysitter
Sure, your kid might want you to just stay home and play with them for hours on end, reading the same book over and over and over again until words no longer makes sense. However, if your kid is frequently scared or anxious when their sitter comes around, there’s a chance it might not be the right fit. There’s also a chance the sitter may be acting inappropriately, unnecessarily strict or, well, worse.
When It’s Causing Them To Get Physically Sick To Their Stomach
Some of us manifest anxiety in different ways. When I was younger, I started developing terrible stomachaches right before school. A victim of bullying, and painfully shy to boot, I had a rough time speaking out. The anxiety and stomach pains got so bad I developed gastritis and my doctor said I was close to getting an ulcer from the stress. If your child is getting lots of stomach pains stemming from anxiety, it’s time to get serious and really focus on getting them help.
When Loud Noises Scare Them Longer Than They Scare Other Kids
Some kids are scared of things like vacuum cleaners and blenders that make loud noise, and that’s normal. However, there’s a difference between being a little freaked out and becoming inconsolable when hearing loud noises. This can sometimes be a sign of autism, so parents will always want to pay attention to their kid’s behaviors.
When They’re Having Frequent Nightmares
Every kid has nightmares from time to time. If their nightmares are causing them major anxiety during the day, and are becoming more frequent, it’s time to react, though. This is doubly so if their nightmares are after a traumatic event or have a recurring theme.
When They’re Wetting The Bed (Well Beyond Potty Training Age)
While anxiety won’t cause your child to begin bed-wetting (long after a child has been potty trained), it can often exacerbate it. The reason lies in other behaviors tied to stress and anxiety, like eating lots of salty comfort foods. These cause water retention, and increase the chance of wetting the bed.
When They Refuse To Go Outside Because Of It
If your child’s fears are causing them to avoid leaving the house altogether, you definitely want to step in and see what’s really going on. Did they have a scary encounter on the street with a dog or a stranger? Maybe they saw something on television where someone on the street was hurt? Whatever the case, look into it.
When It Manifests Itself Into A Rash On Their Body
If a situation is making your kid so anxious it’s causing them to break into a rash, it’s something you should pay close attention to. On the one hand, the rash might be unrelated (in which case you still want to treat it). On the other, your child’s body is obviously so stressed it’s reacting in a physical way, and you might be able to help.
When They Suddenly Give Up On Something They Love
When kids become withdrawn while simultaneously anxious, it could mean that your child is dealing with some heavy stuff. You could try to give your child some helpful reading material, or get them to open up, or even take them to a therapist who might be able to help them better. What you don’t want to do is ignore it.
Probably Always, Really
At the end of the day, it’s our job as parents to be there for our kids. Whether they are two or 12 or 20, if they are fearful or anxious, it’s important we acknowledge their feelings and help guide them through it. It just might help them nip it in the bud sooner than later.