Has your once fearless tot started to be fearful of some things? As children transition from a baby to a toddler, they become more aware of their surroundings, and they are feeling more intense emotions however, they don’t yet have the capacity to cope with these, and it’s common for fears to set in around this age. While it is a completely normal stage of development, it’s good to know how to help your child move through this phase. Here’s how you can do this.
Acknowledge their fears
Some common fears that toddler age children have are monsters, the dark and storms, but children can have fears about just about anything. While some can seem so far-fetched and ridiculous, to them, they are very real. Don’t dismiss their fears, but rather acknowledge them and try to reassure them that you are there, they are safe, and the fear cannot hurt them.
Don’t confirm their fears
For example, if your child is afraid of monsters, don’t validate that they are real. Parents often do this by creating a ‘monster spray’ that keeps monsters away or by saying, “it’s ok they won’t you, you are safe with us.” By doing this you are confirming that they are real, and they have a valid reason for being scared. This can solidify their fears and make the problem worse.
Provide opportunities to confront their fear
A great way for your child to fully comprehend that their fear is just that, a fear, and nothing more, is by providing your child opportunities to confront what they are scared of. We recommended starting off small. This can be something such as talking about it and introducing other tools like books that are about squashing fears exactly like theirs. The more you do this, the less consuming their phobias will be and eventually, it will become a thing of the past.
Give them the independence to make choices
Sometimes fears can make toddlers feel as though they have no control, and they can feel overwhelmed as a result. You can give them back some of their perceived loss of control by allowing them to make choices for themselves. Ask them what you can do that will make it better. If they say they don’t know, offer them suggestions, and give them the freedom to choose one of them.
Avoid white lies
Telling little white lies can exuberate your child’s fears. Especially if you tell them an untruth in the moment to calm them down and then they realise you weren’t being honest. An example would be telling your child that has a fear of strangers that you’ll be right back when taking them to a new daycare centre and actually leaving. This can intensify their fears because they know you are lying, and it is scary. Instead of fabricating the truth to make the present moment easier, look at ways for your child to cope with their fears.
Ask your child to explain why they are scared
You may already know what your child is scared of but delve a little deeper by asking them what they think will happen and what they feel when they think of their fear. Once you address their feelings and understand their narrative associated with their fear, you can help them work through it. Reassurance plays a big role here, and the more you do it, the less scary their fear will seem.
Stay cool, calm, and collected
As a parent, you are your toddler’s number one influence, and if they see you getting worked up or anxious over something, they are likely to mirror your behaviour. They’ll see your negative reaction and associate that with something bad or scary.
Reach out for help
If you have friends with children of similar age or who’ve had kids before, have a chat with them about your child’s fears. There’s a good chance that they have been through something similar, and they may be able to offer some good ideas on how to help. Another place to turn is your childcare teachers, they’ve most likely seen every fear in the book before and may be able to give you some useful coping strategies.
If you think your child’s fear is more than a typical toddler fear and it’s all-consuming, or they become uncontrollably upset, it may be a good idea to have a talk with your GP. They may be able to recommend you to a child therapist that specialises in this area. You don’t have to battle through it alone, know that there is support out there. Getting help early on can be beneficial to both you and your child.
This too shall pass
No one wants to see their child terrified of something, and it can be tricky trying to help them through this phase. We hope this post has given you an insight into how to address your child’s fears with confidence. The good news is that most children grow out of these fears as they get older.
Here at Little Saints, we understand this phase can be a tough time for both little people and their parents. Our daycare centre provides a supportive and nurturing environment for children to work through their fears via stories, books, and play. Contact us today if you’d like more information.