Home › Health Topics › Emotions & Behaviour > 

Fears - babies, toddlers and young children

Fear; anxiety; worry; separation; stranger; emotions; feelings ;

Children's worries and reactions to situations vary enormously. Most children will be worried and fearful from time to time.


Babies are born with an in-built response to sudden loud noises, some movements and anything unfamiliar or unusual. When babies are afraid, they cry. This is their only way to bring an adult to keep them safe.

At six or seven months of age, babies are usually friendly and smile easily, however they usually have a preference for their parent or main caregiver.

By seven to eight months, they start to want to have you in sight at all times and may be upset or cry when they cannot see you.

When long separations happen – for example through being in hospital, or a parent leaving or being ill - the child can show severe anxiety.

Many babies develop a fear of strangers, generally sometime between 5 and 12 months of age, and this often lasts until they are up to two years old. They may even seem afraid of people they know fairly well, such as their grandparents. See the topic 'Separation anxiety' 


Toddlers, especially 2 to 3 year olds, are often fearful. They have very powerful emotions, which they have not yet learnt to control. Something new can be very frightening, even if we think that there is no risk to them.

Many toddlers and young children have a special comfort object – a dummy, favourite blanket, piece of cloth, etc. It helps them feel safe, relax and to go to sleep while you are apart. See the topic 'Dummies, thumbs and other comforters'.

Young children

Children are afraid of things that they cannot understand or control, and strange or new situations or objects. They can be fearful of many things, because so much of the world is new to them. 

Young children will be naturally fearful of some things (such as being separated from a parent) and they need to be taught to be fearful of certain other things to keep safe. The dangers of traffic and electricity are too great, and young children cannot understand them, so fear helps them keep safe (parents also need to keep them safe and not rely on fear alone!)


The Raising Children Network site http://raisingchildren.net.au/ has many topics about childhood fears and anxiety  including:

Raising Children website is produced with the help of an extensive network including the Australian Government.

back to top

The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

Home › Health Topics › Emotions & Behaviour >