Anxiety in Babies & Toddlers: Have you ever had thoughts like What if my child gets lost? What happens if my kid gets sick? Is my baby developing properly? Why is he walking in a funny way? What if an animal attacks my baby?
I am sure by now you would have baby proofed your house (if not please do it immediately. If you require help do read our article on 17 ways to effectively baby proof your House for help.)
Back to the topic. Even after all this you will still worry if your baby will be safe? If your baby will have a fall? What if your baby hit himself, bump his head, etc…etc…?
All this is anxiety. It is not something that has happened. But something you are worried about…
Same way our kids even when they are babies have anxieties. Anxieties like what if mom does not come back? Will this stranger take me away from my mom? Why is there such a loud noise, is it going to hurt me? Etc … etc…
- What is anxiety?
- Anxiety in Babies & Toddlers
- When anxiety becomes a problem?
- Symptoms of Anxiety in Babies & Toddlers
- Common type of Anxiety in Babies & Toddlers
- How-To understand cause of anxiety
- Things to do to try and address anxiety
Feeling anxiety may be a normal thing. It is a part of life, especially within the stages of growing up and learning.
But an excessive amount of anxiety in babies can affect your child’s life destructively. The kid begins to avoid difficult situations, conflict, and despair.
We think a lot about this and vividly imagine how this may happen. Then, physical symptoms appear, we blush, we strain, we start to tremble or run to the restroom.
Once we feel this within the body, we think: “What horror is occurring to me?” There’s a danger, what I used to fear, is really happening!”
This process is often truly dramatic, but many children and parents are not conscious of it.
An easy awareness of the processes that occur within the body will help reduce anxiety.
This is often the primary thing we should always understand as a parent and should teach our kids.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety may be a state of nervousness, fear and concern and is experienced by both adults and youngsters.
It occurs within the “advanced” prefrontal cortex, where we solve problems and picture different situations.
Anxiety in Babies & Toddlers
There is no family that within the first 3 months of the baby’s life did not experience the painful moments of the cry and anxiety of the kid.
The uncontrollable cries of the kid within the first months of life are the foremost common reason for contacting doctors round the world.
As a result of the analysis of the child’s behavior and various discussions, the best conclusion was made that crying is often considered an effort to draw in attention.
But, sometimes crying is a sign of hunger, real discomfort, pain, illness.
Not all cries are because of anxiety. Babies cry for many reasons right from hunger, discomfort, tiredness and even boredom.
If you like to know practical ways how to pacify your baby do read our article Why is my Baby Crying? Tips to calm your crying Baby.
A cry due to anxiety is different and as parents we need to learn to differentiate it. Only when we recognize this can we take steps to solve it.
When anxiety becomes a problem?
You might wonder how come a child as young as a newborn baby / infant can high level of anxiety and insecurity?
Even though it looks like anxiety, the child’s actual fussiness is a sign that your child’s development is on the right track.
Anxiety in babies is usually when the baby has to part with mother. It is a normal thing that should have been anticipated from the beginning.
Similarly, your child would have suddenly cried when he heard the loud sound of fireworks or hid behind mother’s back when he was called by a stranger.
All these things are common and are part of the process of developing cognitive and emotional abilities of the baby.
Anxiety in babies & toddlers is normal. It is a healthy reaction to danger. It helps the child’s adaptation and may sometimes prevent him from taking unnecessary risks.
But, in some cases, it can become a big problem
If anxiety and the cry of a baby continues, even in absence of any apparent symptoms, or if you are feeling concerned that something is not right with your kid. And if you find some behavior changes, all this should be discussed with a doctor.
Also, if a baby’s discomfort is such that he is unable to function normally and his condition disrupts the life of the whole household, he may have anxiety disorders.
Causes of anxiety in babies & toddlers can be multiple and complex. It may result from the environment, hereditary predispositions, and psychological factors also. It is best to discuss all this with your pediatrician and take their advice.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Babies & Toddlers:
Symptoms of anxiety are often the same in babies as in adults and toddlers
- *Changing behavior
- *Sleep problems
- *High heart rate
Only in the third case, the child does not react like the adult and this reaction varies according to its stage of development.
You must take the time to understand what is going on in your baby’s life, to understand the reason for the anxiety.
Common type of anxiety in Babies & Toddlers
We have listed below few of the common anxieties in Babies & Toddlers. And things we as parents can do to help in reducing these anxieties in our kid.
This is not a do all and end all list. There are many types of anxiety. If you feel that your kid might have anxiety issues, do reach out to your pediatrician for further guidance.
Separation anxiety disorder
All children undergo normal stages of development during which anxiety is present.
This primarily begins when a child is 8 to 10 months old. Your child is afraid to see you leave because he has not learned that Mother will come back soon.
Most parents are confused and stunned when the baby who was so cheerful and talkative suddenly becomes a fussy person, does not want to stay away from you, and often cry for fear of being ignored.
No matter how many times Mother says, “It is okay, Mother is only going away for a while and will be back soon”, your child will still cry and force you to be beside him all the time.
Your baby suddenly begins to react strongly to your absence (when you are out of his sight) and to your departures.
It is separation anxiety. It is a crucial stage within the development of the kid.
You should rejoice because your baby has just realized that he is a separate person from his parents and parents can “disappear”.
Things you can do – Separation anxiety
This situation needs to be waited out and by being there for your baby. Attending to them will give them reassurance and they grow in security of the home.
When you need to be away, take time to mention goodbye to your baby in a reassuring tone.
The kid will gradually understand that mom and dad always return wherever they go, even if he cannot see them.
We should not leave on the sly to avoid a fit of tears that tears our hearts out.
Sneaking off can produce insecurity within the child, who will remain in constant fear of seeing us leave.
Simple games like peek-a-boo or Hiding his face and opening it, you will even have fun hiding and making a toy reappear this will help your baby during this stage.
It should be noted that, if not tackled properly, this stage can extend over several years during which the kid will experience this fear of separation.
Sometimes your baby has nightmares and fears which adults are tempted to describe as irrational.
Your little one could be afraid of shadows in his room, of the monster under the bed or in the wardrobe.
He also wakes up in the middle of the night, panicking after a frightening dream.
Sometimes fear of falling, fear of holding animals, fear of seeing clowns and lumping horses, or fear of hearing balloon eruptions often look like excessive anxiety in his eyes.
The world and all its contents seem very broad, frightening, and every step that is set in this world contains fear of what will happen next.
Try to put yourself as a child. Surely your perspective and perception of the world is very different.
Things you can do – Fear anxiety
- Acknowledge fear anxiety of your child.
- Do not ridicule your child when they express their fear.
- However, for the child, it is something that is causing them stress worry an anxiety.
- Hear them out when they are expressing or trying to express their fear.
- Try to find the reason why the fear was triggered. Sometimes you would find that their nightmares were caused by something that they have either watched or a story that we have told them.
- If it is fear of darkness or monster etc… You can also leave a small light on in your room
Fear anxiety in babies & Toddlers can arise because your kid compares the real world with the fictional world of fairy tales that we read every night.
Fear for the child is very real. We must therefore avoid its reasoning to make him feel secure and protected.
PHOBIA ANXIETY DISORDER:
In some cases, there are babies who have special anxiety about insects, water, or neighboring dogs.
The reason could be because there was an incident that stuck in his head, but it is difficult to explain.
It may be that your child is suddenly very afraid of dogs because they have seen the dog chasing a cat with a violent face. You can read our article 19 ~ Amazingly simple ways to introduce your baby to pets to help your little one get accustomed to pets.
My daughter had hydro phobia. It came from the fact that when she was just couple of weeks old our mid wife gave her bath using hot water.
She hates hot water till date she will test the water multiple times before she takes her bath.
Things you can do – Phobia Anxiety
- Avoid what is causing the phobia.
- If you cannot avoid (like the case of my daughter) with Hydro phobia. Then reintroduce it in the phase your child is comfortable with.
- Talk and explain and rationalize it with them.
- Acknowledge and accept the phobia. Instead of ridiculing it.
Babies have many reasons to feel worried.
For example, there are children who easily cry for fear of seeing strangers when they want to approach him.
This arises because now the baby can distinguish, which faces are familiar and which faces are rarely encountered.
They immediately cling to the known face and they look from behind the parent and watch what is happening.
Things you can do – Social Anxiety
Toddlers and Preschooler will outgrow this stage. Exercise patience.
In the meanwhile, you can do the following
- Give your little one time to warm up to a person
- Do not force them. And make them take up to someone they are not familiar with. (even if it is close family / grandparents)
- Do not punish or reprimand or blackmail them for being anxious.
- Tell them stories where the character in the story was a confident toddler.
- Make them familiar with close family members by showing them photos and talking about them.
- Talk to them about their anxiety, hear their point of view and make them take baby steps to overcome this.
Other causes of anxiety in Babies
At any age, your child can suffer from anxiety. His sleep becomes disturbed, his behavior changes, he becomes more agitated or seems sad.
It is sometimes easy to put your finger on the situation that causes concern and sometimes not.
Few more causes of anxiety in babies are…
- A recent move, shifting, travel etc.
- A change of daycare or caretaker.
- Your long working hours or routine change.
- Your child can also be disturbed by current events in the household. (Sickness of a sibling, celebration etc.).
- External factors in his surroundings, such as guests or relatives, a new pet in the house even a new help.
- Rain, and thunder, Darkness, loud noise, or dog barking etc. can cause anxiety.
It is also quite possible that our own anxiety or stress can get translated to the baby and the baby will experience anxiety. If this is the case, we should not feel guilty and we should try to settle the situation and be strong in front of our baby.
How-To understand cause of anxiety
Often, you must investigate gently to understand the main cause of the anxiety in babies & toddlers and help the baby.
- Follow his nonverbal cues. E.g. Babies tend to look at the object that is making him anxious and cry. They can sometimes point to it also.
- Check for what changed in his environment.
- Looks for patterns. E.g. is the baby crying once lights are switched off, or if it is raining outside… etc.
- Check your own mental state
For toddlers (All the above … plus…)
- Talk to him anytime.
- Ask him questions and help him put words into his emotions.
- Above all, listen to him without trying to find solutions.
When you see the baby start crying and fussing, hug him and say words that are soothing to the heart.
However, do not stop there. Hugs are usually effective, but its soothing properties are only temporary.
Explore till you find the reason and the pattern. And remove all triggers. This way, your baby does not remain in an anxious state often.
Things to do to try and address anxiety
1. Don’t hesitate to talk about children’s problems
Babies have a lot of imagination, but there is very little vocabulary that they master so even children find it difficult to express their fear through words.
As parents we must actively help your child to express his emotions. Follow their nonverbal cues and figure out the reasons behind anxiety.
2. Take it slow
If the baby cries while playing in the ball pool alone, then try to release him slowly. Sit next to your child or his lap while in the ball pool.
When he feels comfortable, give a pause a few minutes before you change positions and slowly move away from him.
Children will quickly react when you suddenly disappear or stand too far, but by taking slow steps, children will get used to playing without having to be watched from close range.
3. Prepare children when going to an event / meet new people
Before leaving for a playgroup or a friend’s birthday event, try to calm your child by mentioning familiar names who will also be present at the event.
If not, then state the name of the person he will meet later along with the physical description and behavior of that person.
Also do tell your little one what to expect so they are not in a social shock. Do tell them what you will be doing there and when you will leave the place.
Even though this may seem trivial, it will really help the baby prepare mentally.
4. Don’t force your child to be tougher
Do not force your babies to be independent before they are mentally ready.
Usually this strategy turns out to be undesirable.
For example, you force your child to get off the slide and defeat his fear. Even though cold sweat ran down and his hands trembled,
Mother continued to force him to act boldly and glide down. You also begin to compare it with other children who are far braver.
This strategy will usually only make the child hate himself, feel weaker or even afraid of you.
Do you want to be a mother who your children are afraid of?
I am sure the answer is a firm NO.
5. Give them a role model
Show examples to your child. But be careful that you are not comparing them with their peers. It can even be their own siblings who face situations that your little one is scared about.
One of the best ways to show confident role model for your child is by reading on narrating stories that has such examples.
Storytelling has amazing benefits on to a child. You should read our article on Storytelling to kids – Popular Trend these day to know how to effectively tell stories to your children.
6. Have more playdates
You can have more play dates for your little one. Invite other children to your house to play with your child.
If that is not a possibility, take your child outside to a playground or other places so your child can look and see how other children are and learn from it.
Apart from this benefit a visit to a playground helps immensely to develop your baby’s physical health.
You can read our article about how to help in your child physical development in our trending article How-To Improve Physical Development in Your Baby
7. Increase your child’s confidence!
Praise the behavior of your baby as something to be proud of.
Continue to encourage him to be brave, to be more independent and to interact with new people.
Your little one will also understand the world better.
Good communication is a way to increase your child’s self-confidence.
You might wonder why it needs to be looked at a stage when your kid is just a baby or a toddler. But the earlier you start the better your baby will be able to communicate with you.
8. Be patient and Accept
Let your child develop his abilities naturally even if it means that the time your baby takes is somewhat longer than his peers.
Be patient and accept the kid as they are. These anxieties are common in toddlers and it will not last long.
However, if we do not accept them and we force our kids. Then these can turn out to be a larger issue as kids grow up.
Now that you have understood the types of anxieties your baby or toddler can face and what we need to do to help your little one,
Take heart, as your baby gets older and and as he learns more things in life, your child will understand that this world is not as frightening as he thinks.
The baby will slowly understand that it is normal if a cat scratches, and his beloved family will sometimes leave, they will still come back.
So as parents if we are consistent and available for our children, Reassuring and accepting them, Making sure that they feel safe and sound and secured,Loving them unconditionally, Things are good to go. Your kid will move on to grow to be a wonderful and confident adult.
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If you have any other ideas or tip on how identify and deal with anxiety in your toddler.
Please do share with us in your comments below. This will help us to make our blog better and above all your knowledge will benefit other parents also.
However, I am a mother growing 3 kids. Am a concerned parent.
I have written this article, basis my experience, my talk with experts in this line and research on this topic. These things I have written , I have implemented it in my life with my kids.
This is article if only meant for knowledge sharing and information purpose ONLY. This is not a substitute for any medical or professional advice.
If you are feeling concerned and worried about your kid. Your instinct tells you to be concerned.
As a parent to parent. I would say trust your instinct. No one knows better than you as a parent to your child. It is best to reach out to a qualified practitioner to address your concern.
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