What Your Kids Worry About According to Their Age

As adults, we know how anxiety, fear, and worry can feel. And as all of us experience it on different levels, it’s a very real part of being human.

That’s why, as parents, one of the most important skills we can teach our children, is to know what to do when they feel anxious.

It’s important that we don’t assume our kids are fine just because they aren’t verbalizing anything. We must ask questions, allow them to feel, and allow them to express their hearts.

Sometimes, we shouldn’t settle for “I’m fine” after we’ve asked them how they are. Instead, we should ask questions that dig a little deeper.

Infancy to Toddlerhood – Worry in Children Ages 0-3

A baby cries because it needs food, sleep, a diaper change, etc. But did you also know it has NO idea that when you leave a room, you’ll be returning? So for them, the knowledge of the safest thing they know being removed from their smell and sight vicinity is terrifying.

Swaddling babies isn’t just something we do to keep babies from scratching themselves, but it’s also to make them feel like they are still in the safety of their mother’s womb.

When babies turn into toddlers, their anxiety shifts as they begin to understand things differently. They start to realize that their voice becomes heard.

Depending on the child, this can be the time when their fears of the unknown translate to tantrums.

What most parents don’t realize is that it’s completely normal. It’s an age where they can’t quite communicate their frustrations or worries with words, and throwing a fit is one of the only responses they know.

What are some things I can do to help my toddler when feeling anxious?

Toddlerhood is an age when a child can begin to learn right behaviors instead of wrong.

Explaining things before they happen, especially if it’s something they might not like, can ease the transition and help them better understand a situation. This will result in less anxiety for the toddler.

As trust continues to form between parent and child, they can begin to understand that throwing a fit won’t give them what they want as long as you are firm in not giving them what they want, when they want it.

It’s also helpful when you can give your toddler a choice.

Let’s say you want them to drink some water, but their response is usually difficult when you order them to do so. Instead of giving a command, you can word it like this: “Would you like a glass of water with or WITHOUT ice?”

This leaves them with a choice but also implies they need to do what you asked of them.

Every child is different, so there is no one fixed solution for keeping your child from throwing fits or feeling anxious.

Tantrums shouldn’t be looked at as something that needs to be fixed. Try and recognize it as something that is a part of your child’s learning how to communicate. It’s your job to show them how.

Do your best to balance discipline with understanding.

Preschool and Kindergarten – Anxiety in Children Ages 3-5

Preschool through Kindergarten is the age when a child begins to understand that there are scary and frightening things in this world, whether that’s a monster under their bed, or their pet dying.

They begin to recognize their feelings and emotions and can somewhat understand them, but don’t quite have the skills to know what to do with them.

How can I help my Kindergartener or Preschooler with anxiety?

This time is crucial for parents to come alongside and explain EVERYTHING. You can never explain too much to a preschooler.

They will bombard you with questions and talk your ear off about all they are learning in the world. It’s a sweet time that a child begins to relate to their parents.

  • At this time, we have to assure them, perhaps 30 times over, that there is no monster under the bed.
  • We have to tell them the truth, but also be careful with the details.
  • And most importantly, we have to monitor what they see with their eyes and hear with their ears.

Protecting your child’s innocence at this age is SO crucial to the worries and fears that come and take place in their minds.

If you’re letting them watch movies above their maturity level, of course, they are going to have nightmares, which will in turn cause anxiety in children.

Grade School – Anxiety in Kids Ages 6-11

At the age of 6, some may see an almost immediate shift in fears and anxiety. Your child can go from being scared of the dark to noticing that kids are capable of rejecting him as a friend.

At this age, a parent will begin to notice more disrespect as a child becomes more independent. Their hormones are changing, their brains are forming, and all the while, they are taking in and realizing that this world is not so forgiving after all.

It’s a hard place to be and it can very easily cause anxious thoughts.

During the grade school years, you will begin to notice a shift in anxiety that can sometimes transpire into disrespect.

It’s essential, at this time, to show your child an immense amount of respect, even if you don’t feel like they are respecting you – teaching them respect has more to do with how you show it to them.

Then, when they hit their tween years, they will feel heard, as your family’s environment will be of mutual respect and understanding for one another.

How can I help my grade school child with anxiety?

As your children begin to understand the world and its darkness, the best thing you can do is to be their safe space. Accept them for the awkward and wonderful little creatures they are. And when they fail, be gracious.

You can also teach them coping skills like deep breathing, or focusing their minds on something positive when they feel anxious. Have them try the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method.

You can also have them start journaling. It’s an amazing way for them to express how they feel, but not feel pressured to talk about it right away.

Another great tool you can use as a parent is to show them that with hard work, they CAN overcome their difficulties or feelings of anxiety. This can best be shown by teaching them to follow through and not give up, and if they fail, it’s OKAY.

Most importantly, it’s our job as the parent to accept our kids for who they are, mistakes, and all. It’s okay that they aren’t perfect, don’t have straight A’s, or aren’t the captain of the basketball team.

What will matter most and stand the test of time in your relationship with them is to simply be there for them. Be the non-judgemental space they go to when things get tough.

Identify WITH them, and try and remember what it’s like to be that age.

Tweens and Teens – Anxiety in Children Ages 12-19

This is the age when a child’s juvenile fears turn into full-blown anxiety. When an adult has anxiety, they have most likely acquired certain coping skills throughout their life.

But tweens and teens aren’t quite sure what to do when the pressures of adolescence come — which it will.

Things like grades or being on a sports team might be something that a child’s parent desires them to excel in. But what they don’t realize, is that their kid’s desire to please them, will most times outweigh their desire to take care of their own mental and emotional well-being.

Kids will sometimes seek to please their parents, instead of learning their own boundaries, limits, and capabilities.

So along with the extreme peer pressure placed on them at school by their friends, as well as their teachers, they have an added element of pressure brought on by you, the parent.

How to help your teenager cope with anxiety

First things first – stop expecting your teen to be perfect at everything. Grace should always outweigh expectations if you want them to feel safe to be who they are, as well as include you in their life’s journey.

Doing this shows them that it’s not their job to make everyone happy because you’re not expecting them to make YOU happy.

Teach them to understand their limits and have boundaries—but also encourage them to not stop in the face of failure. It’s all about balance.

Another thing your tween or teen still desperately needs from you is to simply hear why and how you are proud of them—and they need to hear it OFTEN.

Even though your child may give you blank stares or rolling eyes in response to your words of affirmation, they still need to hear from you that they are worth something. And that shouldn’t stop after they graduate.

I’m a grown-up, but I still need to hear that my parents are proud of me.

Last but not least, offer your help and advice, but don’t force it.

Parents can sometimes unknowingly overlook anxiety in their children, due to their own problems they face in life.

But the relationship between a parent and child will always include a teacher/student scenario when it comes to their wavering emotions and feelings.

Whether it’s a positive or negative influence—whichever direction that goes is entirely up to you.

When you can better understand your child’s feelings and why they have them, you can better prepare them for a mentally and emotionally healthy lifestyle, while bridging the emotional gap in your family.

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32 thoughts on “What Your Kids Worry About According to Their Age

  1. Qhubekile M. says:

    this was very interesting my son has bad tantrums and he gets very angry, he just went home to my mom 2 days ago, they say he has been looking for me in every room and it a struggle for him to sleep at night because he wants me, when i call he doesn’t want to talk to me i can see that he is angry at me that i took him away. toddlers have their own minds bit they are very loving and caring , iam learning every day to understand my toddler but wow they are a lot of work loool

  2. Julie L. says:

    Someone once told me when my baby was a few months old, that before I blink, she’ll be all grown up. We need to treasure each stage in our child’s life and most importantly, encourage them and not add to their anxiety. Thank you for this very important article. What a great privilege and blessing it is to be a Mum.

  3. Crystal M. says:

    My daughter is 7yrs and she has always foumd it hard to make friends,and wen ahe does makes a friends she feels it shud b her friends alone wen aum1 elae cokes she feels left out. Shes always worried oyher kids dont like her or how she looks 😔😔.i would find her crying after school if another child said something en ithers laughed she would cry so bad even if wat was said wasnt truely dat bad..shes alwys on gurd😔😔😔😔😔😔

    • Caroline M. says:

      Am a toddler mom 🥵🥵 though am forcing right behaviors eg after eating guy want me to take his plate away no ways he’s now a pro after eating he knows what to do

      A very important information I go be an alert mom to both my kids I swear am denying to blink on this 🤞🏾

      Thanks mumbox