Preschool children experience anxiety for a variety of reasons including transitions, changes to their routines or disruptions in the home. Some children simply have a higher ‘set’ anxiety level than others. If your preschooler is experiencing anxiety, try these tips to get him feeling happy and calm.
Tips to Decrease Anxiety Levels in Preschoolers:
- Model good social skills. When a child sees his parents having meaningful friendships, he will be more inclined to want to make friends of his own.
- Act as an intermediary for the child in social situations. Help the child introduce himself to other kids. Encourage the kids to play with toys, or suggest a game. Setting up regular play dates can be helpful. Even if the children don’t play directly with each other, being around other kids can help a child become less shy.
- Talk to the child about his fears. If the child seems anxious around peers, ask the child if he knows why he feels afraid. Social anxiety in preschoolers is often residual separation anxiety; the child may feel uncomfortable being away from his parent.
- Engage in pretend play: Preschoolers love pretend play, and this provides them with several useful social skills. By engaging in pretend play, you may have an opportunity to see the child act out his fears in social situations. By learning about these fears, you can help to work past them.
Anxiety is normal for developing preschoolers to some degree. However, if you suspect your child has higher than normal levels or anxiety, or if his anxiety is interfering with daily functioning, consult a mental health professional.
For more information, click here to watch a Pediatric TV episode on anxiety disorders in children.
Koos Bokhorst, Fritz A. Goossens, Piet A. DeRuyter, “Early detection of social anxiety: Reliability and validity of a teacher questionnaire for the identification of social anxiety in young children,” BNet.
Robert J. Coplna, Ph.D., “Social Anxiety and Maladjustment in the Preschool,” McMaster Univeristy.
The Emotional Life of the Toddler. Lieberman, Alicia F. 1995. Print.