Dealing With Toddler Fears

Is your toddler afraid of the dark yet? or monsters?  I always wonder how they know to be afraid of such things.  Is it an innate human reaction to such things?  Is it from TV?  Is it because adults ponder such fears and talk about them or possibly a sibling?

Whatever it is, suddenly, you may have a toddler that is fearful of things.  It might be common fears like I stated above, or they maybe things that are kind of unique.  Most of the time these fears are totally normal, even the unique one's.

I know for my younger daughter, who is now two and a half, we have been dealing with all kinds of fears.  She is afraid of the dark, but then she is afraid of the night light.  So what then!  She is also afraid of monsters and bugs and other such things.  We have definitely hit that age.  Sometimes its definitely a struggle to get her to go to sleep.

My older daughter that is in Pre-K now and just turned four also has fears.  Her fears are a little more mature than her sisters in that she realizes how things kind of work in the world and she is starting to realize to be afraid of things.  She is always afraid that she is going to be "mushed" by a car, as she puts it.  She is also afraid of strangers.  Don't get me wrong, these are things we want them to be "afraid" of, but they also have to know how to deal with them in a way that they can still go about their day.

So what do we do when our children are afraid?  Here are some ideas I came up with to help my daughter's that seem to work.  I'll admit, I am a total worrywort, so sometimes I have to just get passed my worries and help teach my girls how to cope with things.

1.    Don’t Dismiss the Fear. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing your toddler’s fear…no matter how small it seems to you. In your child’s eyes, the fear really is something to be worried about. If you dismiss it, you’re sending the message to your toddler that you don’t care. Therefore, listen attentively when your child comes to you with a fear.

2.    Don’t Give It Too Much Attention. It’s important to try and remain neutral to your child’s fears because if you give the fear too much attention, you run the risk of making the fear worse and last longer. It’s good to identify with your toddler’s fears, however, don’t inflate the fear by saying something like, “You’re right, that really is scary!” Instead, say something like, “I can understand why that scares you, but…”

3.    Help Them Face Their Fears. One of the best ways to help your toddler overcome his fears is to help him face his fears. So, if your child is afraid of dogs, ask a friend with a calm, friendly dog to meet you in the park so your son can see that all dogs aren’t mean. Bring your toddler to meet your friend’s dog and have your son pet the dog. This is having your son face his fear of dogs, which will work to eliminate the fear. You can do this with virtually any fear.

4.    Don’t Use Safety to Justify Fears. Experts warn against using safety to justify fears. For example, if your child is afraid of cars, don’t teach your child to cross the street by saying, “if you don’t look both ways, a car will hit you.” This can not only increase your child’s fear of cars, but can also cause your toddler to become afraid of crossing the street or another related fear.

What are some things that your child fears? and how do you deal with it?



Monicas Mom Musings said...

My 2 1/2 year old is suddenly afraid of the bath. She used to love it, now she screams throughout it. It doesn't matter if toys are in it or not. It doesn't even matter if water is in the tub. Just the whole thing causes her to scream. This is completely foreign territory to me. I thought she was fearful because my husband had run a bath for her once and it was a little too hot for her. My husband felt it, but he likes scorching hot baths so he felt it was a tad cold. But that doesn't seem to be it since she does it when there's not even water in the tub. She usually takes a bath with her brother so we have tried it with and without him, and nothing. I might have to try getting in the tub with her next to reassure her it's okay. She's worse with the shower though. So I need to figure out something because wrestling with a screaming wet naked child in the tub is not easy.

Heather May said...

Great post! My kids are afraid of the strangest thing....People in costumes! Clowns, mascots, the whole 9. If there is a costume near....they see it and they SCREAM!!! I have tried showing the hair underneath and even had them take the head off the costume and that seemed to scare them more!

Heather May

Whitney Hardesty said...

Check out monster-defense.com. We have a wonderful-smelling spray available now & a fun, illustrated children's story coming out in Dec 2013-Jan 2014 that tells the story of a little boy with a monster in his room, and how he overcame his fear of monsters. In researching online prior to writing the book, we read many articles from child & adolescent psychologists and parents about recommended methods for dealing with fear of monsters, and interpreted this into a fun, rhyming story which gives parents direction on how to help & gives kids the tools necessary to overcome their fear.