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Parents' overconcern may produce anxiety in children

No parent wants to cause anxiety in their child but being mindful about how we convey our concern may help our child be less anxious.

Dr Alicia Lieberman, is world renowned for her work on parent-child attachment. She talks about anxiety in the young child, in her book, 'The Emotional Life of the Toddler'.

On p188 she explains, anxiety may be caused by a parents' overconcern regarding their child's physical safety. When parents tells a child,'You will get hurt'; ' You will fall'; 'You'll bump your head', the child becomes fearful to explore.

Toddlers need to explore to learn about the world. As parents we need to let our child become independent AND keep them safe. This allows our child to grow, try new things, learn skills and boosts their self esteem when they are able to achieve a skill which they previously could not do.

An example is climbing to the top of a slide. Encourage your child but allow them to decide if they want to climb. Do not insist they climb or use derogatory language such as, 'Come on, it's not high'; 'You are a big boy now, you should be able to climb that'; 'Look! These children are climbing it'.

Children experience different situations differently. Some children are not scared of jumping into the swimming pool and are excited to make a huge splash, while others stand on the edge, peer into the water and are anxious. Allow them to take their time and go into the water when they are ready and for some children this may take weeks. Acknowledge that they are listening to their body and will go in when they want.

As parents it is hard to get it right and say the correct words to our child. At times, life is busy and messy. We all make mistakes and say things we should not. We need to learn from that and move on. On p189, Alicia Lieberman states, manageable amounts of anxiety go into building coping resources, and parents and toddlers are better for it.

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