Fear and anxiety in 3- and 4-year-olds

Fear and anxiety in 3 and 4 years old

It is normal for children to feel fear and anxiety sometimes. This is part of growing up a child and it is part of being a human being. But young children can sometimes be so anxious that panic can prevent them from exploring, utilizing, and growing. Studies estimate that up to 5-15 percent of kindergarten and school children sometimes feel this severe anxiety. That is, it is quite common for a young child to feel anxious.

Anxiety often takes on the appearance of sadness in a child, a desire to refrain from fearful things, difficult separation from a parent, or frightening fantasies or dreams. Kindergarten-aged children may be preoccupied with things that worry them and talk a lot about them or find it difficult to move on and move on. However, anxiety may take the appearance of stubbornness or a tendency to quarrel. That is why it is always important to try to understand why children fight. They may rather need to deal with their fear rather than learn to control anger.

Because fear and anxiety may increase or decrease when the child avoids the thing that frightens him, it is important to encourage the child to challenge his fears. It is not always easy to navigate between affirming their feelings and calming them and at the same time encouraging them to be daring to try.

But the child’s fear and anxiety may be caused in fact by the presence of things in his life about which he feels fear or psychological pressure. The child may have gone through something hard, such as fleeing or losing a parent. Perhaps the child was distressed after escaping, or because someone frightened him in kindergarten, or because one of his parents lost his job, or because he drank excessively, or because the parents separated. The child’s fear in such cases is a natural reaction to going through something difficult. Rather than following the advice in this text, it is more important to focus on calming and supporting the child and trying to ensure that the situation around the child becomes more stable.

In this text, we are trying to describe how parents can act as parents. If the parents think that the situation is very difficult or if their child is very distressed, they can turn to a child psychologist at “Första Linjen för barn och UNGA” (first grade for children and young people), which is available in some clinics. They can give specific advice on how parents can support the child. There are also books to read that contains advice for parents, for example, Martin Forster’s 2013 book: “Jag törs inte men jag gör det ändå, Om barns välmående och självkänsla” (I don’t dare — but I do it anyway about children’s well-being and self-esteem).

Children’s fears

Almost all children are frightened, anxious, and anxious — at least for a while. From an evolutionary perspective, fear has an important protective function as it sharpens vigilance in situations of danger. The children’s feeling of fear of people they do not know during the second half of that year shows that the child has established a bonding relationship with his parents and that he seeks safety there. It is possible to say that the fear of snakes and spiders has benefited the survival of humanity during the evolution process.

In the case of young children, the fear often lies intangible phenomena such as loud noises or private environments. They may be afraid of water and do their best to avoid washing their hair. Kindergarten children’s fears are influenced by their imaginations. The ability to imagine is a treasure but it also means that a child may imagine frightening things like villains and monsters. Like Alphonse whose, the father must make sure there are no lions under the bed at night. Lots of kindergarten-aged children find their own strategies for overcoming fear. For example, it might be repeating certain words/phrases on their way to the toilet, suddenly forcing themselves to enter the elevator, or sleeping alone in the evening.

Aid for frightened children

Troubled children may have very intense reactions to situations that frighten them. Parents are affected by the child’s fear and want to comfort and comfort them. The best of intentions may then lead to a commitment to behavior that promotes the emergence of fear rather than reducing it. Especially if one of the parents is himself feeling a little anxious. We can say that anxiety is contagious because parents may unintentionally teach children that things are scary and the best way to deal with them is to avoid them. Sometimes the whole family is affected by the child’s fear in the form of adherence to habits, avoidance of certain things, or following certain rituals. The family might avoid boarding a plane, going out into the woods, or taking a babysitter. This is understandable, but unfortunately, by avoidance, the parents emphasize the main point of fear that the world is dangerous and the best thing a child can do is turn away because his chances of overcoming what he fears are nil.

As for the method of dealing that helps the child, it is to achieve a balance between embodying and affirming the child’s feeling of anxiety, but at the same time enhancing the child’s confidence in his ability to achieve more than he thinks. Children need encouragement to expose themselves to what they fear because then they accumulate experience that they have actually managed to defy the fear and that the thing they were afraid of did not happen!

Some children find it difficult and frightening to live without their parents, to be with a babysitter, to go to kindergarten, or to play in other children’s homes. The child may be preoccupied with fantasies and thoughts of disaster that something terrible will happen to the child or his parents after their separation. The dependence of children on their parents is normal and desirable, of course, especially if the child is not more than 3-4 years old. But if it is difficult for the child to overcome what he feels is an obstacle or leads to conflicts, then the child needs his support to overcome the separation. For only short periods at first, the child accumulates positive experiences by himself or with other adults. It is possible to agree with the child how to arrange it so that the child feels involved in controlling when he is “trained” to be away from one of his parents. Perhaps the safest babysitter with whom the child feels safe is to look after the child before embarking on adventures such as children’s gymnastics or other activities that parents miss. It is also important for the guardian to explain to the child that the reason for not “training” him with the child is not that he does not want to stay with him, but because training means the child’s participation in many interesting things if he learns little by little to remain without his guardian sometimes.

Many children feel anxious at night, especially when it is time for bed. Studies have also revealed that fear and anxiety in children negatively affect their sleep. It may be difficult for them to fall asleep at night and go back to sleep if they wake up in the evening. The easiest way to find safety in the evening and at night in children 3-4 years of age is often to let the child sleep with one of the parents. If the parents think that the child’s sleep in the bed will make the place narrow and the matter is difficult, they can lay a mattress on the floor or arrange a place at the feet of the bed where the child can sleep the whole night or sneak up if he wakes up in his bed. Allowing 3-4-year-olds to sleep with a parent does not mean that they will sleep there until they reach school age. Note that a child’s development is so comprehensive that age-appropriate habits may change very easily as the child gets a little older.

If the child’s fear is related to his unwillingness to go to the kindergarten, then his guardian must first verify that the child’s condition there is good. Concerned children may feel that the kindergarten environment is chaotic and unsafe. The child may withdraw rather than seek support. That is why it is important to use the kindergarten staff to make the child more comfortable. Sometimes the child may need to play in quiet with one of the children, and we may then ask one of the employees whom the child loves extra love to take care of the child an extra amount to increase the child’s sense of safety.

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