Things that go bump in the night. The bane of Miss Muffet's existence. A
teacher's harsh rebuke. What do they all have in common? Plenty: They're all
typical childhood anxieties and fears.
Nothing to worry (too much) about. But try telling that to your child! As a
parent, you can make a big difference in how well your child handles common
worries like these. Here are a few ideas that may help.
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Not all fear is bad. In fact, a little fear serves as an insurance policy.
"Without fear, we'd jump headlong into things we shouldn't," says Tamar
E. Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety. Chansky is
also director of the Children's Center for OCD and Anxiety in Plymouth Meeting,
Some fear is evolutionary in nature, says Chansky. For example, many
children -- and adults -- continue to fear things outside their experience.
Their brains are wired to protect them from snakes, for example, even though
the average person rarely encounters a slithery serpent, venomous or not.
Some children experience anxiety disorders, often a strong emotional
response to an intense experience. But mostly, a child's fears are a
predictable rite of passage.
Common Childhood Anxieties and Fears
Your child's "anxiety landscape" changes over time. Here are some of
the most common childhood anxieties he or she is likely to experience at
different stages of development.
In the ideal situation, an infant's world is framed by parental security and
a sense of calm. Anything that disrupts that -- a loud noise or a stranger, for
example -- creates fear, says Chansky. One simple thing you can do to maintain
calm is to establish a predictable routine. Also, minimize the numbers of
caretakers in your child's life. Strong bonding with your child -- through
regular touch, eye contact, and talking or singing -- creates a foundation of
trust, helping to inoculate your child against future anxiety, too.