This week I asked you about what you’ve been ‘surviving’ as a parent at the moment and I asked this because I’ve had a tough couple of weeks, with food intolerances and structural work on the house, but particularly around the issue of child anxieties and phobias.
All children will experience some form of anxiety during their development. The most common being separation anxiety, which in simple terms is when your baby or child learns how dependant they are of you and struggle to be apart.
Some children may even develop specific fears or phobias, for instance, fear of the dark, animals, strangers or even weather. It is all part and parcel of growing up, and is completely natural, and can occur in certain ages or stages in their development.
Over the last few months, I’ve had my first experience of managing a specific phobia with my eldest. At first, I’d noticed a change in his behaviour, he didn’t seem as ‘happy-go-lucky’ like any 3 year old is, and as the week went on he stopped wanting to go to nursery.
It first started with, conversations of “I don’t want to go to nursery Momma” which then changed to protests resulting in full blown tantrums.
Initially we thought it was because he had changed rooms, from the toddlers room to pre-school and wasn’t adjusting to the change yet. But after speaking with his Key Worker we discovered he’d had an altercation with another boy, which explained his refusal to go.
However, the protests became worse, and you could see it wasn’t tantrums anymore, it was fear. Intense fear and panic.
We had to listen to our little boy, so we kept him off until we got to the bottom of what was going on.
Speaking with his Key Worker again, we then learnt that it wasn’t an altercation as previously described, it was in fact a phobia of another little boy in pre-school who had severe autism.
It was explained that whenever the boy would come into his area to play, Fin-Bob would become extremely upset, covering his ears and closing his eyes crying until either he or the boy was removed.
That was fear… and his way of trying to close off all his senses until whatever he was fearful of was gone.
That’s when we learnt his specific phobia had turned into anxiety and panic that was now impacting his attendance at nursery.
But where had all this come from? Has Fin-Bob saw something or experienced something that made he become fearful? Possibly. Frustratingly we’ll never know the real reason. Unfortunately, nursery never gave any details as to why this had happened, despite our questioning. They themselves may not have known, or seen anything. Not forgetting, there’s a very good chance that nothing ever did happen.
Like I mentioned earlier, anxiety and phobias are common around my son’s age, so it’s hard to pin point any rational reason. The only real information we had was how Fin-Bob was reacting, and the panic and fear he was experiencing whenever we talked about going to nursery.
We had to recognise his fear was real, despite how irrational it may have sounded, developing a fear of another boy who probably did nothing to him. So we talked and talked, trying to get Fin-Bob to tell us what he liked and didn’t like about nursery. We talked about it being okay to be scared, and that we were always there for him. We did everything to not ignore it and acknowledge that it was okay.
But it’s tough trying to converse with a 3 year old about feelings. Especially when he doesn’t have the language skills yet to describe what he’s going through or how he’s feeling.
Luckily for us, he was due to leave that nursery and attend a new pre-school in September, so in the short-term the issue of being around the thing/person he was fearful of was quickly resolved.
However, despite knowing it’s a phase, and that no doubt he’ll get over it, I wanted to prepare myself in case a specific phobia like this arose again. I’ve now become more in-tune to recognising signs of anxiousness in him. Not that there has been any further signs as yet.
Like most kids, he soon bounced back, and since leaving the nursery and joining another pre-school he’s back to his happy-go-lucky self, and loving pre-school and all his new friends. But like any parent would be, I’m still on the look out, just in case another specific phobia arises. Which no doubt it will, because of his age and stage in development, only this time I’ll be better equipped, and will listen to my child sooner, rather than listening to others.
As you can probably tell, I’m still feeling a bit sore about the whole situation and this has been a difficult post to write.
It’s important to mention that if you are experiencing something similar there is a wealth of information online, around childhood anxiety and phobias, along with some great coping mechanisms and tools to help support the child and parent. I found this page on the Kids Health website particularly useful.
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