The world can be a scary place to your susceptible toddler. If monsters, spiders and a fear of the dark are starting to rear their ugly heads here’s what you can do to soothe your child back to safety.
Fear is a natural part of childhood. While as parents we want to do our best to ensure our children always feel safe, experiencing fear isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a normal part of development and a sign that your child is learning about the world around them.
Helping your child learn to embrace and manage their fear is something you can — and should — try to teach. Managing fear is an essential part of helping your toddler become more independent and is a great way to teach your child valuable problem-solving techniques. Here are a few tips on how you can teach your toddler to feel safe in the face of fear.
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Common toddler fears
Luckily, toddler fears are generally quite predictable and while some can be useful and adaptive — such as a fear of crossing the road or a fear of fire — others might need to be gently quelled. Some of the fears your toddler is likely to experience include:
Fear of the dark
Who hasn’t been scared of the dark at some point in their lives? The thought of monsters, creepy crawlies or strangers hiding under the bed is enough to scare anyone, let alone a toddler with an overactive imagination.
Fear of nightmares
The barking dog that startled your toddler last week, a scary story told by a sibling or the thought of being served broccoli for dinner two nights in a row is enough to have your toddler quivering under the sheets.
Fear of falling down the plug hole
Toddlers have a tenuous grasp on reality at the best of times and most struggle to understand the concept of size. Falling through the plug hole or down the toilet are very real concerns for your imaginative little one.
Fear of separation
Separation anxiety kicks in at around 18 months of age. Mummy and daddy are the whole world to your toddler so they’re likely to experience some discomfort at being left with someone else, especially a stranger.
Fear of your fears
Toddlers are perceptive little things and are likely to react if they see you scared of a particular object or situation. That huntsman in the corner might be huge but try to stifle your scream if you don’t want your child to be terrified of spiders.
How to help your toddler overcome their fears
To help your toddler learn to deal with what frightens them start by thinking like a toddler.
To your child the world is an exciting place but also a scary one. New experiences are happening every day that need to be sifted through, categorised and understood. While you know that there’s little chance of you ever being sucked down the plug hole because in your 30-odd years of experience is has never happened, your toddler sees a big, scary dark hole and panics.
The first step in helping your child to manage their fear is to take their feelings seriously. The Raising Children Network suggests that you encourage your toddler to talk about their anxieties while helping them to understand the situation by providing them with facts and support.
Don’t force your child to confront fearful situations but don’t avoid the problem altogether. Simply start exposing your child to their fears in small doses, stopping when your child becomes afraid and coming back to the activity at a later time.
Remember — facing fears is a difficult task no matter how old you are so offer lots of praise to your toddler as they learn to face and manage their fears.