Preschoolers need loving reassurance and support. They have little control
over their own lives and are too young to use problem-solving skills to work
Common stressful situations include: starting or changing day-care, starting
preschool, the arrival of a new baby or family member, being separated from
a parent, being disciplined, and toilet training. Preschoolers also worry
that they will be deserted or starve, and they may become fearful of
strangers. Scary things, sickness, and the unknown also are stressful.
You will know that your child is suffering from too much stress if he has
less energy than normal, is more irritable, has night terrors or nightmares,
more frequent temper tantrums, becomes more clinging or demanding, or is
crying more than usual.
What can you do? It is up to you to recognize warning signs of stress and
help your child through the difficulty. Help your child to understand the
situation. Explain what is going on in simple, reassuring language.
Encourage your child to talk about his fears. He needs to learn to say
things like, “I don’t like it when your dog barks,” or “I’m afraid to go
into that dark room.”
Don’t tell your child that his fears are silly; they are very real to him.
Ease his tension by offering understanding, support and plenty of affection.
Holding and cuddling a young child will help to ease the stress. Finally,
you can increase your child’s sense of security by remaining calm during
times of difficulty.
When should you seek help? When you are unsuccessful in attempts to help
your child, or when the problem is too much for you to handle, get
professional help. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice.