Friday, July 29, 2011

Preschooler suddenly anxious and clingy

Knowledgeability Clarity of Response Politeness
10                         10                            10
Comment: Thanks for your insights. I hadn't thought about the effects of a new nanny on routine change. in our case, it was minor, but even minor change can have a big impact on a little one!

Questioner: Alison

My daughter, who will be 4 in January, has always been, until recently, exceptionally gregarious and sociable. I had no trouble starting her in preschool 2 mornings a week at age age of 2. Now, she is in preschool 3 mornings a week and loves it.

She is also in a couple of other 'drop off' programs, including dance 1 hr a week and a sports program 2.5 hrs a week. she does all of these with friends and has always loved to go. I work part-time from home and take care of my kids (I also have a two year old boy) with the help of a full time nanny. My husband is home evenings and weekends and is a very involved dad.

Recently, we had a couple of household upsets. First, we had to change nannies because my previous nanny got pregnant. While looking for a new nanny, we had a pretty chaotic time with the previous nanny and my mom each coming by a few hours a day to help out while I worked. The kids seemed to adjust to that okay, though, and they both love their new nanny. The real upset happened when my husband had to go away for 10 days on business. My daughter cried for him every night. Ever since the first day he was gone, she has become more and more clingy. She is upset if I am even on a different floor of the house.

One by one, she is refusing to go to all the drop off activities she used to love. She is now saying she does not want to go back to preschool, which she also loved. she not longer wants to go to friends' houses for play dates. My husband has been back home for about 6 weeks now, and she's only getting worse. I thought with the extra time with him over the holidays (he has 7 working days off), she would settle down, but she's only clinging harder.

At first, I assumed this was a phase that would pass, but now I'm getting worried. I myself suffered from severe anxiety from a young age, and it effectively took must of the fun out of life. today, I need to take paroxetine to keep crippling anxiety and panic attacks under control. I don't know if what my daughter is experiencing the beginning of whatever condition I have or just a phase that she'll work through.

I'm not sure how seriously to take this or what to do. do I stop taking her to formerly loved activities? I'm taking on less work to spend more time with her, but I'm not sure how far to go with that. I don't want to overreact or under react to the situation.

Any guidance would be appreciated.

Answer: Dear Alison:

Your 4 year old seems to have a very active life. Maybe your husbands leaving and the change in Nanny's was just too much for her.

It doesn't mean she has to quit her classes forever. Maybe consider suspending classes until she gets her emotional foothold again.

Realize at the age of 4 children really do not understand long absences or changes of nannies. Something is making her insecure.

Have you examined her daily routines to see what has changed. There is a big difference between routines and schedules. Schedules are based upon time which a child her age has no concept of time. Routines are all about consistency in what activity comes next. Maybe there were subtle routines her previous nanny had with her that she misses. These can be as simple as a salutation or a hug in the morning? Although the new nanny maybe wonderful she is still not the nanny your daughter was use to and possibly she is grieving over the changes. You would know best as you are her mom and there with her.

It just sounds to me like she has a lot to deal with right now. As for whether or not she is experiencing the same type of anxiety you suffer from only a specialist would be able to tell you. If the behavior continues for more than six months I would encourage you to find a children's mental health specialist and have her evaluated.

I commend you for cutting back on work and spending time with her. She is lucky to have parents who are in touch with her behaviors and feelings.

M Kay Keller