Toddlers: 24 Months+

Toddler anxiety? (long post)

Hi Ladies, 
I haven't been on the Bump in awhile but I'm up against an issue I was wondering if anyone here might have advice on or thoughts on.  We are trying to determine if our 29 month old son has ordinary toddler separation anxiety or a more significant anxiety disorder condition.  I will list a few behaviors I am concerned about.

1) From about 11 months to 2 years old he was a perfect 12-hours-straight sleeper in the crib.  We moved him from his crib to a new room with a fancy big boy bed at around age 2 after a couple incidents of climbing out.  It was a rocky transition.  He started waking at night and screaming incessantly at the top of his lungs until someone would go in to sooth him.  Because we had a new infant in the house (19 month age gap) we really could not have him screaming at all hours of the night and developed the (admittedly bad) habit of DH sleeping on an air mattress on DS's floor.  He also requires someone staying in the room with him while he falls asleep now, or he will scream incessantly.  It can take 45 mins or more to get him to sleep some nights.  This issue seems to be getting worse and his anxiety getting more intense.  Tonight he was actually refusing to get into his bed.  

2) He is waking up screaming at night, possibly from night terrors?  This can happen when he is alone or even if DH is sleeping on the floor.  He usually calms down pretty readily when he realizes that DH is there.  

3) He cries and screams if he thinks that one of us is leaving the house, for example going out in the garage.  

4) He cries and screams hysterically if one of us gets out of the car (even while the other parent remains in the car), for example if one of us were to run into the grocery store or pick up take out.  

5) He is very anxious about moving rides such as a children's train ride or baby rides at an amusement park, but likes to ride on the bike in his seat w/ DH.  

Background:  I know he is what they refer to as a high-spirited child, he can be prone to willful behavior and has strong preferences for sure.  I am not sure if all of this is truly anxiety or some sort of tantruming.  He is verbal, social and affectionate.  He interacts well w/ other children.  I don't think he has sensory processing issues, he certainly is not sensitive to sounds, textures or other input that I can appreciate.  I find it sort of odd that he does not appear fearful or anxious about taking off and exploring in environments like the park or the zoo, where we literally have to chase after him.  He has been cared for by us (parents) and primarily a single care provider, but extended family members are frequently involved in his care and he has gone to some weekend "school" programs.  He is also learning to swim one-on-one w/ an instructor, initially had a lot of anxiety but quickly warmed up to it and after about 8 lessons is loving it.  

Anyone have experience w/ issues like this?  Should we be concerned about a significant problem or is this just slightly extreme toddler behavior?  We are planning to consult his pediatrician but I wanted to check in with you ladies for your thoughts and experience.  TIA!

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Re: Toddler anxiety? (long post)

  • He honestly sounds a lot like my son at that age. He would get really upset in certain situations to the point of having to go in a quiet room for him to calm down. After switching to a twin bed from the crib he would often wake up at night crying and screaming and still to this day (he is 4), is very cautious about a lot of things and not very adventurous. I honestly just figured this was his personality. My daughter is WAY different and actually, the exact opposite of him.

    Now at 4, he sleeps great, doesn't have separation anxiety and most of the over the top behaviors have stopped.

    I think it's wise to consult the Pedi and I'm not an expert but it sounds somewhat normal to me for that age. I think there are some "bad" habits you need to break like sleeping in the room with him, etc but you can do that with a little work.

  • I think that you need to give him time. He might be just a high sensitivity child - one of mine is - so we always have to be extra vigilant to what will be too much stimulation for him. He is 7 now, and still deals with these issues to some extent, but I vividly remember him going through a lot of what you mentioned. 

    I think if you just work with him and learn to expect what sets him off, you will slowly get into a rhythm. 
    Mom to Three Sweet Things
    Lifestyle Blog and Health and Wellness
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