This month’s blogs are about Anxiety, Fears and Phobias in Infants, toddlers, and young children.
Everyone from baby hood to adulthood experiences anxieties and fears at one time or another. With
children these feelings are not only normal but are necessities. Dealing with anxieties and fears can
prepare young people to handle unsettling and challenging situations in life. The nature of anxieties and
fears change as children grow up.
INFANTS: Anxiety and Fears
According to a new study presented at the American College of Neuropsycopharmacology some babies
cry scream and kick in response to unfamiliar situations while others stay calm. The difference between
the two stays with them throughout their lives. Dr. Carl Schwartz, the study’s lead researcher, found
that a baby’s temperament, discernable at four months, predicts the structural development of the
anterior prefrontal cortex, the brain heavily involved in emotional response and control.” We have
discovered a surprising and important link to depression and anxiety”, Schwartz says. He says that the
increased cortical thickness might interfere with the proper functioning of these brain regions, leading
to increased depression and anxiety. “Anatomy isn’t destiny”’ says Schwartz,” but anatomy seems to
have a pretty big foot print”.
Do all babies experience separation anxiety?
Yes, Separation anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development when babies begin to understand
that things and people exist even when they are not present. This is called “object permanence”.
In other cultures, babies are rarely separated from their mothers during the first year of life while
Western cultures stress autonomy from a very early stage.
This development stage will pass so enjoy knowing the sweetness of you being number one in your
child’s life even for only a short time.
We, in Baby Power, when a new group of moms and babies arrive in a classroom, know that the frame
of reference for the baby is “ uh oh we are at the doctors or mom is dropping me off at a day care or
baby sitter”. So the teacher sits very quietly on the floor, with a smile, in front of the group and basically
tries to shrink, look down at the floor and when she looks up she will give the children the “Bambie
Blink”. If a child begins to cry we never look directly at them when we call their name and again cast our
eyes down. This makes the baby feel as if she is in control. Amazing how this works every time. Some
children are anxious for a few weeks but eventually (when they are sure Mommy is not leaving) they
really enjoy the activities.
Babies experience separation anxiety by clinging to parents when confronted by people they do not
recognize. In the ideal situation, an infant’s world is surrounded by parental security and a sense of
calm. A loud noise or a stranger, for example, creates fear. One thing parents can do is to establish a
predictable routine and minimize the number of caretakers in your child’s life.
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