When children are little, they worry, but may not understand why. There may be no logical evidence to support it, but it is real to them, nonetheless. It is real enough to provoke a real nervous system response. Worry is anxiety.
It sometimes surfaces with a barrage of questions that seem to come out of nowhere. I remember one evening when my 5-year-old son started asking, “What if the chickens didn’t want to give their feathers away for people’s pillows?” “What if they get really cold because they have no more feathers?” “What if they come looking for their feathers and want them back?” “What if they’re really, really mad?” He had certainly worked up a good deal of anxiety about this. The next morning, when I came out of my bedroom, I saw his pillow on the floor, outside his door.
Our first response to something like this is always reassurance, followed by trying to invoke logic. When this doesn’t work (it seldom does), we become frustrated and give the child the message (through words and body language) they’re being silly and need to move on.
Let’s think of some of the knee-jerk comments we make to children who are anxious....