I was talking to my mom the other day, and she shared with me that my great niece was terrified of a toy, so much so that even seeing it on the counter made her cry and scream in terror. Unfortunately, her slightly older brother loves the toy. It’s not unusual for toddlers to be afraid of loud noise or sudden movements and this toy does both, without warning.
There are times where fear is useful! It can protect us from jumping headlong into trouble, and some fear is evolutionary. Children naturally grow out of evolutionary fear as they grow and develop their anxiety landscape changes.
Evolutionary fear can be:
· Separation anxiety in toddlers,
· Fear of the dark or masks in preschoolers,
· Storms, spiders, or needles for school children,
· Rejection and failure for teens.
Parents make a huge difference in how well children can adapt and handle fear. When a toddler or preschooler are experiencing strong emotions, the situation is real for them no matter what a parent says, therefore, it will take small steps to help them over time realize that that dark closet isn’t something to be afraid of. It will also take a parent who the child trusts to help them overcome their fear.
One of the ways I helped my son overcome his fears was with positive, fun, and sometimes goofy games. When he was afraid of the dark, we played games by flashlight and read books by flashlight. We made forts and sang songs by candlelight (replacing the campfire).
Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them deal with fears. Be sure to check them out!
Many experts suggest approaching fears in steps.
* There is a balance between overprotecting and belittling.
*Be age appropriate in your methods!
* Always approach with respect and love, never assume you know the precise source or reason for their fears!
1) Don’t try to talk them out of being afraid.
2) Stay calm and confident. How you speak to them about their fears is as important as what you say.
3) When helping your child to confront their fears find out what feels comfortable. Don’t force your child to do more than that. However, don’t give your child a total out. Complete avoidance isn’t the answer for anxiety. Practice coping response in a variety of ways. Teach and provide relaxation tools.
4) Reward efforts both big and small.