Toddlers are at the stage of development when they are more aware and start to process their surroundings. This is an essential and exciting discovery journey for them and along with it, are some less positive feelings and behavior as toddlers start to experience anxiety and nervousness. There are many reasons why toddlers will feel this way and respond by displaying clinginess, grumpiness or throwing tantrums. Here are seven common reasons!
#1 Separation from Parents
Separation anxiety from parents start from about eight months of age where your child starts to be aware when you are not around. It can be more pronounced when he is starting childcare or left in the care of other caregivers. Be patient with your toddler at this stage and seek to reassure him that he remains safe even when you are not around, such as establishing a goodbye routine and setting a time when you will be back.
Being shy or nervous when meeting strangers is normal, and even positive as it means that your child is able to identify that there are people he will be safe around. For “strangers” who will be the caregiver when you are at work, spend some time interacting with the caregiver in your child’s presence. That is one reason why being with your toddler when you first place him in childcare is important (other than assessing the childcare center).
#3 Parental Conflicts
If your child often sees his parents quarreling or displaying anger and hostility towards each other, it may increase his level of anxiety as he starts to question the stability of his home. Try to resolve conflicts when your child is not around and do not contradict each other in his presence.
Sometimes behaviors such as grumpiness and tantrums have got more to do with your toddler than with you or his surroundings – for instance, he may be frustrated with himself for not being able to fix a toy or reach for objects at a certain height. You can help him with some of these development skills but do not overdo to the point he is either reliant on you or feels that you lack confidence in him.
Not everyone does well in parties, kids included! Some children feel more fearful in group settings and may start to get clingy during party. Instead of forcing your child to socialize, help your child by explaining in simple terms what to expect, let him know that his friends will be there and if he needs, help find an activity for him to engage in during the party.
#6 Monsters Abound!
Your toddler may tell you about his fear of monsters, which may come in the shape of something at the window, shadow or what he has seen during the day. He is not able to clearly distinguish between what is real and not, while at the same time, realizes that his parents do not have the power to make everything right all the time. Instead of brushing it off, listen and try to work out a strategy to keep him safe. It can be a comforting bedtime routine that helps allay your child’s fear and help him to have a good night’s sleep.
#7 Anxiety Temperament
There are children who feel more anxious than others and these children require more comfort and soothing techniques to cope. If it is affecting normal life, you may need to seek help.
Tips for New Mothers
You may be at loss on how to deal with all the anxiety and nervousness that your toddler is going through, here are five tips:
#1 Listen and Communicate
Do not ignore your toddler’s anxiety and fear but instead listen. Help him to identify his feelings (for instance, read children books on feelings) and pay attention when he express them.
#2 Recognize but Not Indulge
Recognize his anxiety or reasons for feeling anxious or nervous. However, do not indulge by making the reasons (for instance, monsters) more real or turning around to use his fears as a way to “scare” your toddler into doing something (like saying if you do not eat your food, monsters will eat you up at night!)
#3 Establish Routine
Daily routines help to reduce anxiety and increases predictability, and give your child some control as he can expect and plan (in his own way) his day or what he wants to do during playtime. Bedtime routine is important for a calm and good night’s sleep and avoid too much excitement before bedtime.
#4 Be a Brave Role Model
Your toddler can sense your anxiety and fear, whether it is your doubt on his ability to face a situation or your anxiety when you face a difficult situation. Portray confidence in yourself and your child, and it is more likely that your toddler will feel more brave too!
#5 Comforting and Relaxation Techniques
Read up on strategies to comfort your child and try out various ones such as storytelling, hugging, deep breathing, singing or even massage. The key is trying to relax and release the anxiety and tension.
Reasons for anxiety such as parental separation will pass but if your child is constantly worrying, complaining of stomachaches, headaches or fatigue or his fears are affecting his quality of life, it is worth consulting a doctor to seek help for your child.