Help with My 7 Year Old Who Has Become "Worry Phobic"

Updated on January 07, 2011
C.C. asks from Mason, OH
15 answers

Over the past few months my 7 year old has become increasingly worried about many things. It started with being out after dark. As soon as it would start to get dark he would ask when we could go home.... even if we were at Kings Island! He would rather go home. He is also worried we won't find our car when we park in parking lots. He spends the whole time wherever we are, worried we won't find the car. Now the worrying has moved to the weather. He's terrified of lightning and is now watching the weather radar a few times a day. If there's even a chance of rain, he says he wants to stay home. When he does go outside he is constantly watching the clouds and consumed by the weather. Yesterday I took him to a play date and the entire drive over he spent talking about the weather. He was also worried this weekend when I took him to baseball practice that I wouldn't be back in time to pick him up. ( I had to drive my 10 yr old to cheer) I assured him that everything would be fine and that I told the coach I will be back, etc. to try to ease his mind. He is 7 and I want him to be a kid and play and have fun. Not worry about things that he shouldn't even be thinking about. He's a tough little kid and loves sports and anything physical. He's always been so easy! But this has progressively worsened over the past 3 months. I'm not sure what more we can do other than continue to reassure him. Does anyone have any recommendations? Is this just a stage or do I need to take it more seriously?

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So What Happened?

I am truly touched by all the heart felt responses from all you wonderful moms! I so much appreciate the time you took to respond with such good ideas and also relieve my mind that others have gone through this same sort of thing. We will continue to work with my son with many of your suggested conversations and scenarios, and if it doesn't improve then we will look to see some professional help. Thank you again for your help! I love Mamasource!

Featured Answers



answers from Indianapolis on

It sounds like he is having anxiety. I wouldn't let it go on much longer because when it comes to the point of being "all-consuming" of their thoughts and time. It's time to take him to the doc. You don't want this to become a life long battle. I'm not saying he needs medication, but maybe some therapy to learn how to deal with these anxieties. Goodluck

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answers from Indianapolis on

I think there is something more going on than what you are seeing. You need to sit down and ask him why he is overly concerned about being outside after dark, bad storms, finding the car, and being deserted by you.
Have you watched any movies or read any books to him, or with him, where bad things happened when someone was outside after the sun set (almost sounds like vampires and werewolves), where someone was kidnapped or killed trying to get to their car in a parking lot, etc.?
If he can't explain his fears to you on his own you may want to talk to a therapist and see what is causing this uneasiness and tension in your child. I know I would want to get to the bottom of it for his sake.



answers from Canton on

While I am usually retisant to see a child needs professional help with the duration and intensity of symptoms it is at least worth taking him to a psychologist or social worker for a professional opinion. A good child psychologist will be able at a minimum to help you in how to react with him at home. Second opinions never hurt.



answers from Cincinnati on

Hi C.,

My daughter is much younger (only 2) then your son. However, I have conversations about her all the time with my sister who is a social worker specialized in Child Development.

One thing we as parents all know is our children model our behavior. What I've learned through discussions with my sister is that sometimes they will see us do something, but it gets a little garbled in the translation. What I mean is, your son may have heard you be concerned about something and then in HIS mind it was a much bigger deal then what it really was.

I would suggest helping him work through these worry feelings. Acknowledge that it is good to be concerned, but help him find ways to alleviate his fears. Like, when you go somewhere and you know you'll be leaving after dark....when you park the car make a point to have him and you come up with a system to remember where the car is. We parked under the big light, or in section G...whatever it is. Write it down so he is SURE to know you won't forget. Then when he becomes concerned about it later, pull out the paper and show him and have a short conversation saying "See...we don't have to worry. We know exactly where the car is."

It's fine to have concerns, but we need to teach our kids ways to cope with their BIG emotions. Sometimes feelings can be overwhelming to kids and they just don't know what to do with them.

If over a period of time you feel that you just aren't able to get a handle on things and get it under control then yes, I would seek some professional help. I wouldn't automatically go right to the psychiatrist who will prescribe medications... try a counselor first who specializes in children. IF they feel medication is needed they WILL refer you.



answers from Dayton on

Ahh, seven, such a wonderful age! They are now smart enough to get scared. Before this age they didn't know enough to question or worry but now it is a different story. This is when having a talk about things we can control and things we can't do happen in life. If you follow a particular faith, this is when having a discussion how God has such a big love for him and that God who made the universe also takes care of the ones He loves just like he takes care of the birds in the sky. But we mean so much more to the Creator than the animals do, so He will take even better care of us. Your son will be learning there are times he needs to just let go of those feelings and let God handle the details. Building that trust in God, just as he trusts in you to always be there for him. That way, too, your son will never feel alone or unloved, even if you aren't there with him.

Good luck. God bless.



answers from Fort Wayne on

I completely disagree with going for help so quickly. My daughter, who is also 7, goes through periods when she'll worry about things. Like, last week at gymnastics she said that she was worried when she saw there was only 10 minutes of class left and I wasn't there yet. She thought I wouldn't make it in time. I sat her down, because I've heard her say she's worried about other things too, and I said "Aryana, it's not your job to worry about things. My job as your mother is to make sure I'm always on time, always prepared, and always take care of you and your brother so that you don't HAVE to worry about anything." I told her that her job was to just do her best, and that I promised I would always do the rest. I'm sure from time to time she'll say she was worried or is worried about something, but as long as you explain to your child that you will make sure they have what they need, are picked up when they need to be picked up, are prepared for weather changes with umbrellas and such, then it should ease their mind. I think it's completely normal for kids to worry abou things, especially since it's just recent to them since they're places on their own for long periods of time without their mom. It's got to be a little overwhelming for a 7 year old to realize that during the day they are completely responsible for themselves. Plus, so much time goes by during the day that it's natural for them to wonder at first if we are going to remember to pick them up after such a long day. Try talking to him first. Parents and doctors are WAY too quick to medicate children when it's not even necessary a lot of the time.



answers from Fort Wayne on

I would take this serious and consult a psychologist. My sister's boyfriend is in his 40s and has panic attacks that are so bad that he will not leave his hometown without his mother there and he will not go more than 2 hours out of town when she is there. I know as a child he and his sister both had fear issues and the doctors back then did not deal with it as a mental illness. She grew out of it, he did not. Hopefully, this is just a stage, but I'd seek professional help to make sure. Good luck.



answers from Birmingham on

Sorry for the late response but just saw your post. From the time one of my sisters was very young until now (30s), she has always been a worrier. Even though she recognizes that she worries more than others, it's just not something she can control which is more frustrating for her and seems to heighten her anxiety. It was recommended to her by a dr. that she not watch the news. He told her to trust in the fact that if something important or big happened, she would hear about it in many other ways. That seemed to help a huge amount. There's so much negative info. on the tv, about the weather, environment, terroism, etc., that she honestly would seem to worry about something not even close to us. I hope even this small recommendation can help.



answers from Johnson City on

My daughter is 8 and she is the same way. The weather seems to be the biggest thing she worries about. She is so scared of a tornado and we even live in an area that in my 36 years, I have never seen one. Also, bees are a phobia of hers. She is always so worried about everything she can't enjoy anything. Hope you get some answers and maybe it will help my daughter. Good Luck!



answers from Cleveland on

Hi, C.,
I believe this is a phase (having been through it myself with both children) and I found the best thing to do it talk, talk, talk. We talk about what the concern is, and if it could happen, and what we would do about it if it did. My children felt much better when they felt they had some control over things. And they do. They might not have control over whether a tornado comes, but they DO have control over how they respond to it. (eg. If the siren goes off, go to the basement, turn on the tv to see where it is, and if it's possible it could hit our house, take the position under the table.)

Finding the car! Oh, I remember that one well! :) And here is a approximation of the conversation we had:

But what if we can't find the car when we come out? There are so many cars!

Okay, Cade, let's say we can't find the car. Then what?

We'd be stuck here! We wouldn't be able to get home!

Really? Well, what do you suppose we would do if we truly could not find our car?

(panic stricken) I don't know! We would just be stuck here all night!

Take a deep breath. Now, think! What could we do if we were stuck here?

(long pause) We'd have to call Daddy and tell him we weren't going to be home. (then the AHA moment) Oh! We could tell Dad to come and get us!

That's right. We could tell Dad to come get us.

What if Dad didn't answer?

I guess we'd call someone else.

What if no one answered?

Seriously, Cade. Think about that. Out of all the people we know - do you really think it's likely that NONE of them are going to be home?

Well, it might happen.

Okay, then. Let's say that happens. We can't find the car. We're stuck. The store closes at 9:00. What happens when the store closes?

Everyone goes home.

Right. If everyone goes home, how many cars would be in the parking lot?

None. No, wait! Ours would be in the parking lot! It would be the only one! So we could find it!

That's right. So everything would turn out just fine. And no matter what, you and I would be together, and you will always be safe with me.

Thanks, Mama.

So, after that long response, :) my advice is to just talk to him, admit that some of the things COULD happen, but are unlikely, and if they did, how could it best be handled. What would be the worst outcome? My children soon saw the worst outcome wasn't really that bad, after all, when they thought it through. And now, they come up with their own scenarios and solutions. So it was a great lesson in problem solving! :)

Blessings to you, and your son,
P.S. For us, the worst of the phase lasted about six months. Hang in there!



answers from Cincinnati on

My son is six and has issues with this a lot. :( It's heartbreaking and even tiresom to me sometimes. We can in a 10 minute drive go through about 10 things that he is worried about it. We go to a psycologist to help with his anxiety. (Definitly not saying you need to do that. Ours has been going on for years, not months). At our last appointment we talked about worries, what worries are and what they do to our body. Worries can do a lot to a body--Your hands get sweety, figitiness, tingly skin, increase heart rate, increase breathing, stomache aches and makes your mind worry more.
Your son seems to have the "worried mind", where once he really gets on a topic he can't get off it and if he does it's onto another worried.
So, we do deep breathing each time he starts to get irrationally worried. 5 deep breaths, before we ever start to talk about it. We discuss the event in a positive light, only showing that it's not as bad as he things. Also noting that you understand he is worried and everyone worries sometimes. The other thing we do alot is research. We look up what he is worried about and try to educate ourselves. We get books from the library and have some around the house.
Learning how to correctly deal with our worries are very important. Explain to him that you worry about things and what you do about it. Let him know he's not alone and show him how you deal with your worries.
We talked to our pedi. and she said that for anxiety she does not like to medicate. There is no reason at such a young age. She suggested the psycologist and the psycologist is through childrens. She is awesome. She too does not think there is a need for medication, just a little extra help learning how to cope.



answers from Cleveland on

I've had this issue with my 9 years old daughter, too. She worried about the weather, hurricanes.....I've just advised her that I understand her fears, however there are thing that we can control and others that we can't. I tell her that I and her Daddy are there to protect her. Assure her that we have taken care of her this far, and will continue to do so. I let her know that she should let me do the worrying, and that I or someone she loves will always be there to take care of the bad stuff. I let her know that as the adult, I will be responsible for her , and for her to try not to worry. Just always assure her that we will take care of her. That has seem to work, after a while.



answers from Indianapolis on

It's not just about reassurance but ALSO about "preparation". In other words, if he thinks there is an issue w/ the dark, make sure lights are on at home, even if you have to have a timer on a lamp. Have a flashlight in the car - not a bad idea, anyway. Talk about exit routes for a possible fire, what/where to go in case of a tornado or bad weather. Talk about the things that are PRECAUTIONARY - light lightening rods, etc. Remind him that it is totally unnecessary to worry over something you have no control over. Concern is one thing, take precautions. Worry is yet another, and can be very destructive - personally as well as to other relationships and situations.

He's old enough that you might want to get him a book or two on weather so that he understands it better.



answers from Columbus on


When anxiety and worry effects his life adversely, and this does, it is time to seek help from a board certified child pychiatrst. This is very treatable, and he will feel much, much better with treatment. He is misserable.

Our daughter started these kinds of issues when she was only 4, and when she could not manage to attend kindergarten, we began treatment (paxil worked for her) and I could kick my self for waiting as long as I did. She has out grown it now at 12.

I would not hesitate to get him the help he needs, it is absolutley night and day and you would not even think about what to do if this were any other organ system than his brain.


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