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4 year old with social anxiety?
My granddaughter seems to be having a lot trouble in social situations. She has been going to daycare since she was 8 months old (has cried nearly every day that she goes) and is now Kindy/Daycare. Any social situation whether it be the attempt of school, daycare, dancing classes, sport, morning drop offs at Daycare (or school drop off by daycare staff) is faced with anxiety stress and tears. It breaks my heart not knowing how to help. My daughter is currently receiving medication for anxiety and seems to be coping quite well even with the stressful episodes. We are told that she settles down after a little while but is that really even true? If we ask her about her day or try and get her to talk about whats bothering her she says 'nothing im ok' or just brushes it off.....Please is there anything that I can help them both with to ease the stress??
Welcome to the forums and thanks for your post.
I'm sorry that your granddaughter and daughter are struggling with anxiety. It sounds like it's a difficult time for them and I'm glad that you decided to post so that we can help support you.
Given that you said she was 8 months old when she started daycare, it makes me think that your granddaughter's anxiety is really coming from attachment and separation. Does her anxiety drop the moment that she's with her mum? Just from your post that to me sounds like the core of what's going on.
In terms of helping your daughter though, I'm interested to know if she (or even your granddaughter) is seeing a therapist? Being able to have that 'outlet' is so important; whether it's seeing a professional, talking to someone or self-help. A lot of mums who have children with anxiety can often doubt themselves as a mother - feeling like they haven't done enough or are doing things wrong. I'm not sure if this could be happening with your daughter but it's important to know and validate how well she is doing and how none of this is anyone's fault.
One thing that might be helpful is more practical strategies; go for a walk together, get a coffee and allow her that space to be able to open up. Or perhaps it might be things like cooking meals, tidying or babysitting - theres no rules when it comes to supporting someone with anxiety; just about finding out what fits.
Hope this helps,
Thanks for getting back to me. The anxiety disappears if she is with her mum or dad or myself so what your saying is probably quite true. So not sure where we go with her in that respect 😞 i mean do we let it go and hope for the best or do we push her to get out of her comfort zone and deal with the upset..
In regards to the counsellor for my daughter she has been referred to one but she says she doesnt have time to see someone in working hours (which is true) and we dont know who would be available any other time....maybe the anxiety taking over a bit with that one??
That's a good question! I think there's probably a line in-between. Separation anxiety is normal to an extent but but it sounds like your granddaughter has been dealing with this for such a long time and with such a high intensity! I'm sorry that it's been so difficult.
Sometimes it might even be helpful for your granddaughter to see a therapist? They can help your mum strategise and brainstorm what's going to help best - is there set routines in place so she knows what happens and when or is it all over the place? How does your daughter react when it's time to go - is it always the same? Having that routine and structure is important; not only does it help your granddaughter but your daughter as well - so she feels that sense of safety and predictability. They can also teach your granddaughter a bit about coping strategies; like muscle tension and relaxation exercises, breathing exercises or relaxation activities.
Kindy/Daycare staff usually have a bit of training in separation anxiety so they might be able to help you too.
As for your daughter, I agree - hours can make things difficult! Perhaps it might be worth trying to find a psychologist who works at different times?
If you like you can go here - http://www.psychology.org.au/Find-a-Psychologist and then once you search, on the left hand side of the screen you can filter by 'available appointment times'. Some can choose to be open Saturdays where as others may work after 5pm. This might suit your daughter more?
Hope this helps,
Hi Nanny (and a wave to RT... Great advice as always by the way),
Ah the joy of 4 year olds. I have a 4 and a 3 year old and completely feel you with the separation anxiety meltdowns.
I did want to ask if there was a particular activity that seems worse than others? I know that sounds odd but my son used to have horrific tantrums getting him into daycare. And then the anxiety spread to other activities.
My husband sat with him one night and read books and just quietly asked questions while reading. And the story emerged. There was a child at daycare who was very aggressive. The staff ignored his behaviour. So even at this young age his fear wasn't unwarranted.
And whenever we ignored his fear and dropped him off where he knew he wasn't safe he trusted us less. So he got more anxious about activities and more worried about me leaving him.
It is something to consider. We often hear that separation anxiety is normal. But these little people are pretty clued on and smarter than we credit them for. Have you asked what makes her feel so frightened?
I know it sounds silly but even at 4 there is nothing wrong with putting teddy in their kindy bag. My son knows his toy is there if he needs the comfort and reassurance. It also helped him to be told exactly what time I will collect him (I taught him to read the clock) and I am never late. Trust is vital.
I hope you can find something that helps. It is very distressing as a parent to leave a child when they are frightened.
So true and the wonderful thing about children is their behaviour matches their personality. They haven't learnt yet to supress socially less acceptable traits so we get to see them for them and get a chance to give help where it's needed. Could you ask the daycare to work with you by writing down the actual times and duration the child is crying? That would be a great starting point to see if it's a protest at seperating, which is totally normal and typically lasts less than five minutes or is it longer and are the tears coming back at other times during the day which would suggest a deeper problem. I'm sure they'll want to help, they'll want your grandaughter to be happy in care.