How to help an anxious child that’s scared of being alone

Kinderling News & Features

It’s no surprise our little ones can have big worries as they experience and explore the world.

Listener Suzie wrote to Kinderling Helpline to ask Mothercraft Nurse Chris Minogue's suggestions for her five-year-old son. He suffers from anxiety and has a fear of both being alone and a fear of the dark. She writes: “He often says his heart beats so hard, it feels funny.”

Chris shares her tips for instilling confidence in anxious children.

Listen to Chris on Kinderling Conversation:

Comfort and reassure them

“On the day to day basis, it’s lots of reassurance, lots of telling him what’s going to happen,” says Chris.

She suggests saying things like, like, ‘I’m going to leave the bathroom door open’ and ‘I’ll turn the light on in the hall’.

She adds "the other thing we need to teach him is how to relax and how to be calm and how to be in the space and that he’s alright.”

Accompany them, when necessary

If your child won’t go the toilet or an unoccupied room solo, Chris advises escorting them initially to help them calm themselves.

“I’d say to him ‘each time you need to go to the bathroom, just tell me and I will take you’. Take that anxiety away from him. What does it matter? He’s five – they only go three times a day. Try and boost him up while we gather enough information to help him out."

Use calming stories

To help with the fear of the dark, Chris suggests putting a night light on and playing an audio book to relax them and take their mind off their fears. She gives the example of Stephen Fry reading Winnie the Pooh, or any story that is nice throughout, not just with a happy ending. 

“Reading particular stories at the end of the day do set their mind off, so they do need to be fun stories, up stories, not dark stories.” 

Chris says this could help in the afternoon as well, and could lead into meditation for little people, too. The Kinderling app has some stories that could be useful, too.

But underlying this advice, Chris recommends finding further support to guide him through it.

Check out Chris' book Bringing Baby Home on the Pan McMillan website

Have a question of your own? Get in touch with Kinderling Helpline, and tune in Mondays at midday.