Dr. Marlene Maheu 
Article Title
Worried 8 Year Old 
Posted Date

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.

Question: It is normal for an eight year old boy to have intense worry accompanied by tears and fear that he cannot explain?

Answer: Anxiety, frustration and conflict are a part of life and will cause children some psychological problems at one time or another. These problems will be transient and less severe if the child's parents are warm and accepting, and are consistent and flexible in their disciplinary techniques. A child this age has entered the school years, his horizons are expanded and he is subject to an ever widening series of influences. Nevertheless, the kind of relationship that the child has with his parents is still the most significant influence in how he will face and overcome problems and fears.

Frequently anxiety involves guilt. This can be because what the child feels is unacceptable as compared to what he has developed as standards of "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "bad." Conscience can be quite severe at this age and can conflict with the childlike desire to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it. This is anxiety producing. Since a child's true concerns are not directly expressed, parents must explore various possibilities that are both concrete and symbolic in nature. In fact, studies have shown that children this age tend to only be moderately afraid of immediate, realistic dangers, but are strongly afraid of remote or impossible events like ghost or lion attacks!

Some common underlying sources of anxiety are:

    1. Fear of loss of love or abandonment
    2. Fear of punishment and retribution
    3. Anxiety due to guilt
    4. Anxiety due to conflict between parents
    5. Fear of having angry, hostile feelings
    6. Fear of death
    7. Fear of inadequacy

Concerned parents can help children master their fears by being aware of the above causes. They then can explore the interactions and events in the family to see if there are clues to the child's behavior. School performance, peer conflict and teacher or parent criticism are rich sources of worry and anger and inadequacy. A caring, interested parent who can talk about fears without mockery or humiliation of the child is a key to a resolution. A parent who can demonstrate a calm, problem- solving and protective attitude can be very reassuring. Permitting and encouraging self expression by the child, even if it is anger, is most helpful. Persistent, unrelenting fear that inhibits normal activity such as school, or outdoor play should be a reason to get professional help. Night terrors or persistent recurring bad dreams, physiological illnesses, or persistent tics may warrant professional intervention. Whatever the symptoms, professional help should be obtained if a parent feels that their child is suffering in such a way that they are unable to study, play and interact successfully with peers or family for extended periods of time. Such activity is needed for their development and well being. Inhibition or withdrawal should not be ignored.

Dr. Marlene M. Maheu, a Licensed Psychologist, is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of one of the largest self-help & psychology portals, SelfhelpMagazine. More articles from this author are available at Original article link: 
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