The Angst of a Preschooler

Dear Parents,

For many people, including preschool aged children, January brings in an extra dose of angst. Even if you are not familiar with the word, you are with the feeling: a kind of unfocused sense of anxiety or dread around a something insignificant. There is no big reason to be worried or insecure, but one just is. It passes, but because it causes children to be fussy and somewhat unpleasant, we want it to pass quickly. Simply saying “Snap out of it” or “Smile” doesn’t cut it with the little ones. What does?

As usual it depends on the child, so parents have to do a bit of trial and error sampling of activities and responses to find what works with each child. It could also be that one activity works like magic with one adult, but not with the other. It’s a good idea to identify three rock solid responses and be prepared to use them. Here are a few to try for your child:

  1. Rubbing your child’s back and neck or the palm of their hand. This one is nice because it can happen almost anywhere and it makes children want to sit still.
  2. Outside time, especially in northern parts of the United States. The lack of daylight affects many people. Bundle up your child and get her outside every day if possible. A walk will do both you and your child a world of good.
  3. Indoor gym, pool, dance, martial arts, or any other physical activity. Children have a need to be active. It supports their physical development and their mental health
  4. PlayDough. Yes, it is messy. To reduce the mess, have a bin which is under parental control containing a plastic cloth, dough tools, and Playdough. When it is time for Playdough, pull out the bin and spread the cloth on the work area. Take some time to join in and make your own creation. When your child is finished with the Playdough, help him gather it up and put it into airtight containers. Help him clean the tools, fold the cloth and place it all back in the bin. (Please notice that I did not advise cleaning up yourself or expecting your child to clean up by himself, at least not until you have taught this skill by doing it together)
  5. Water colors under direct supervision (only due to the potential for spills). At first, all of these “works of art” will be brown soppy messes. However, after a while, children teach themselves how to use different colors and how to keep them from mixing. Again, it is important that your child learn how to clean up the paint and brushes before putting them away.
  6. Put on and participate in a child’s dancing or yoga video.

Yes, many children will prefer to not do anything; that is part of the angst. You might need to be creative about raising your child’s interest in new activities. Also, know that angst is short lived. Any angst that drags on for you or your child may be a developing depression. In that, case bring it up with the doctor. Otherwise enjoy spending a little extra time with your child as you chase the angst away.


Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.

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