You might remember as a child leaping over onto your bed so the monsters couldn’t grab you from underneath. Maybe there were open-backed stairs to the basement, and you ran up as fast as you could so the witch wouldn’t grab your ankles. Perhaps you had a night-light so you weren’t afraid of the dark.
It is normal for children to go through a developmental phase where they become afraid of things that had not bothered them before.
What are some ways you can respond that help the fears disappear?
- Remember that your child’s fear is real to her even if you think it is silly. Offer empathy. “I can see how scared you are when you wake up and your room is dark.”
- Don’t minimize or deny his fear, or tell him he is being a baby. That makes him feel worse.
- Think about recent events: a trip, a movie or show, a move, a new sibling, problems at preschool or school, or changes in the family. Help her process the event by allowing her to talk about it.
- Take preventive measures. Children should not be present while parents watch the news or anything else frightening.
Especially around Halloween, commercials can be inappropriate for young children.
- Think before you let them watch a show or movie. Even cartoons and Disney can cause nightmares.
- Stay with your child through her fears, rather than avoiding them. Let her know you are there with her and she is safe.
Even if she cries, she is learning that you won’t let anything happen to her. Teach her how to calm herself by speaking calmly and lovingly.
- Ask what steps he could take to improve the situation. “What do you think you could do to make your room less scary?” or “What do you need to feel safe?”
Suggestions can include a night-light, leaving the door open, setting up animals in front of the closet as guards or anti-monster spray.
With a supportive, warm presence, children generally outgrow their fears. But if you think fears are affecting your child’s everyday life, make an appointment to discuss it with your pediatrician.
Lesley Iwinski is a Lexington mother of three grown children, a family physician and Executive Director of The Parent and Family Enrichment Center, Inc. and Growing Peaceful Families. She offers classes, workshops and seminars based on the work of author Kathryn Kvols.
Info for Lesley: (859) 333-3053 or www.GrowingPeacefulFamilies.com.