Boo! Did I Scare You?

As your child grows, you might find that your once self-assured toddler suddenly is afraid of thunderstorms or certain books or that monsters might be hiding under their beds. This time of year, those fears might become magnified due to the abundance of frightening masks and decorations they see everywhere. In fact, just last week, after picking up my preschool grandchild from school, he suddenly called out from the backseat, "Lovey, that's a really scary thing back there!!" I peeked out the car window to see the giant Halloween character with arms outstretched standing in one of the yards we passed.

Children's imaginations are especially active during these young years when their minds are not always able to distinguish between real and make-believe. They begin to imagine what might happen to them in various situations, and sometimes, the more they learn about the world the more fearful they become of certain things that never bothered them previously. 

The most common fears experienced by young children are the dark, thunderstorms, monsters, animals and loud noises. As children get older they are better able to separate real from pretend and their fears become  more centered around social situations such as being left out or bullying. 

No matter the root cause, the fear is causing anxiety talking with your child about it is the first step in helping them get over them.  It is also helpful to let them know that they are not alone - that EVERYone gets scared sometimes.  Below are some suggestions for helping your young child work through their fears, particularly during this season.

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As your child grows, you might find that your once self-assured toddler suddenly is afraid of thunderstorms or certain books or that monsters might be hiding under their beds. This time of year, those fears might become magnified due to the abundance of frightening masks and decorations they see everywhere. In fact, just last week, after picking up my preschool grandchild from school, he suddenly called out from the backseat, "Lovey, that's a really scary thing back there!!" I peeked out the car window to see the giant Halloween character with arms outstretched standing in one of the yards we passed.

Children's imaginations are especially active during these young years when their minds are not always able to distinguish between real and make-believe. They begin to imagine what might happen to them in various situations, and sometimes, the more they learn about the world the more fearful they become of certain things that never bothered them previously. 

The most common fears experienced by young children are the dark, thunderstorms, monsters, animals and loud noises. As children get older they are better able to separate real from pretend and their fears become  more centered around social situations such as being left out or bullying. 

No matter the root cause, the fear is causing anxiety talking with your child about it is the first step in helping them get over them.  It is also helpful to let them know that they are not alone - that EVERYone gets scared sometimes.  Below are some suggestions for helping your young child work through their fears, particularly during this season.

5 Ways To Help Children With Fears

  1. Dark - Go on a "dark walk" together, looking for shapes that might be scary and shining a flashlight on the item to reveal its identity. You might even want to give your child a tiny flashlight at bedtime so that they can shine a light when they are feeling afraid.

  2. Monsters - Read a book such as Go Away, Big Green Monster  (we love this book!!) together and talk about how monsters are just pretend. You could also make monsters from paper and glue on silly eyes, etc. Remind them that monsters are make-believe and so silly!

  3. Thunderstorms - Play outdoors in a variety of weather conditions, such a sprinkling, windy, sunny. (Never when it is thundering or lightening as that is not safe) Sing songs about the rain and talk about how beautiful the sky is when it is dark or lightning. Assure them that they are safe with you.

  4. Animals - If you know your child is scared of a certain animal, that you will be encountering soon, talk to them about it beforehand. Assure them that they do not have to touch the animal until they are ready. Read books about different animals and talk about how soft and fun they are. 

  5. Masks and Costumes - Never force your child to interact with someone/thing he is frightened of, even a dressed-up character. To a small child, someone dressed in a mask or costume looks very real and very large and their fear is real. Practice at home by letting THEM play dress up or role-playing a situation so that they can begin to understand what is real and not real. 

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"A child's fear is a world whose dark corners are quite unknown to grownup people. . . "
-Julien Green

Above all, let your child know that they are safe with you and look for alternative ways to do the things that they are afraid of: for kids that are afraid of trick-or-treating, that might look like being the one who stays home to pass out candy (and you still could get lots of cute pictures). 

Until next time,
Linda