What is child anxiety?
All humans experience anxiety, it serves as a means of protection and can often enhance our performance in stressful situations. Children who are able to experience the slight rush of anxiety that often occurs prior to a math test or a big track race often can enhance their performance. However, experiencing too much anxiety or general nervousness, at inappropriate times, can be extremely distressing and interfering. Although children have fears of specific objects, the feeling of anxiety is more general…children may feel constantly “keyed up” or extremely alert. Given the wide range of tasks children must accomplish throughout their childhood, it is important to be sure that their level of anxiety does not begin to interfere with their ability to function. If it does, it is important that they begin to learn some skills for coping more efficiently with their anxious feelings.

What are fears and phobias?
Children’s fears are often natural, and arise at specific times in their development. Children may develop fears from a traumatic experience (e.g. traumatic dog attack), but for some children, there is no clear event that causes the fear to arise. Some children become fearful simply by watching another child acting scared. Some children may refuse to sleep alone due to fears of creatures in their closet, while other children report feeling afraid of the dark. Children's fears are often associated with avoidance, discomfort, and physical complaints, such as rapid heart beat, stomach distress, sweaty palms, or trembling. Researchers have found certain fears arise at specific ages in all children, and these fears tend to disappear naturally with time, as the child grows older. When children’s fears persist beyond the age when they are appropriate, and begin to interfere with their daily functioning, they are called phobias. Typically, children who are experiencing a phobia should be referred for treatment by a psychologist.

Which of my child’s fears are normal?
Most children, when asked, are able to report having several fears at any given age. Some research shows that 90% of children between the ages of 2-14 have at least one specific fear. If your child’s fear is not interfering with his/her daily life (e.g., sleep, school performance, social activities) , or your family’s life, then most likely you will not need to bring your child to a psychologist for help. Here are a list of fears that are found to be VERY COMMON for children at specific ages:

INFANTS/TODDLERS (ages 0-2 years) loud noises, strangers, separation from parents, large objects

PRESCHOOLERS (3-6 years) imaginary figures (e.g., ghosts, monsters, supernatural beings, the dark, noises, sleeping alone, thunder, floods)

SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN/ADOLESCENTS (7-16 years) more realistic fears (e.g., physical injury, health, school performance, death, thunderstorms, earthquakes, floods.

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Last Updated
May 5, 2015