One aspect of parenting I was not prepared for was my toddler’s fears and anxieties.
When my toddler first started showing signs of irrational fears, I was confused on how to handle the situation. It’s difficult to explain to a toddler, what he is worried about is nothing to fear in the first place.
At the same time, I knew I have to respect my toddler’s feelings and his anxieties and figure out a way to help him overcome his fears.
We use the following approach when dealing with our toddler’s fears. These strategies have resolved the toddler fears and anxieties we experienced. Hoping you can apply these tips in your home and see some success with them.
DO NOT DO THIS WHEN HANDLING YOUR TODDLER’S FEARS
Do not ignore/laugh at your toddler’s fears
When you laugh at your toddler’s fears it makes him feel like his fears have no basis. When the truth is that what seems irrational toddler behavior to you is quite the rational response for your toddler. Constantly laughing at his fears will only make your toddler realize that he cannot trust you with his emotions and anxieties.
Ignoring on the other makes him feel rejected, building a shaky foundation for future relationships.
Do not completely avoid the fear/fearful situation
You may think it is best to avoid the fearful situation altogether. That your toddler will forget about his fears in time. That does not happen, avoiding the fear does not teach him how to face his fears head-on. Many times the fear gets cemented in their mind as a real threat.
Now then, how to remove fear from the child’s mind. Let’s read on,
HOW TO EASE YOUR TODDLER’S FEARS
Acknowledge the toddler’s fears
First and foremost acknowledge your toddler’s fears. Start from a place of understanding. A toddler has a very imaginative mind. They can view a situation in multiple ways.
Get down to your child’s level and acknowledge the fear when they talk about it or show resistance towards it. Help them place a name on what they are feeling without giving a loud reaction. This increases their understanding of what it is they are feeling.
State the facts
Once you acknowledge the toddler’s fears, tell him the real facts about the fear he is facing. Instead of giving loud reactions or showing disappointment, tell him the truth.
For eg. If your child is afraid of the dark,
You can say, “I understand you are afraid of the dark, but there is nothing that can harm you here. It is a safe place.”
Be aware of the content in your child’s immediate environment
In order to help your child overcome his fears, you need to go to the root cause of the problem.
Maybe he saw something in a TV series, or read a frightful story or maybe someone you know unknowingly said something that created this fear.
Once you have an idea what caused the fear you can help your child find a solution.
Once you help your child understand his fears you need to figure out a solution together. Problem-solving together gives your child the much-needed support he needs.
He knows he can come to his parent with any fears and anxiety and find a way out.
Remember even the child feels trapped in his fears, he wants to resolve this issue too. He only needs a supporting partner to help him overcome the fear.
Continuing on the example I mentioned earlier,
If your child is afraid of dark, find a way for him to be comfortable in a dark room. Put on a small night light, show him how to switch it on. Talk about how the home is a safe place, offer a lovey as a comfort companion.
You can say things like:
“I understand you are afraid of the dark, but there is nothing that can harm you here. It is a safe place”
“Come let us switch on this light”. “Let me check this room for you.”
Find a creative solution, for example, make a magic potion that sprays the fear away. Spray this water on your child and tell him how you just put on a safety bubble around him with your magic potion.
Offer a lovey/soft toy for comfort
One solution we found useful was the use of a soft toy as a tool for comfort. When your child faces his fears he goes through a lot of stress. Having a well-loved soft toy for comfort helps motivate him to keep trying and get over his fear.
Repeat exposure to feared object or situation
As parents, you don’t want to promote running away from fears. Encourage your toddler to try and face his fears repeatedly.
Be careful not to be forceful and aggressive when doing this. Each time you repeat exposure to the fear you have to be calm and encouraging.
For example, social anxiety in toddlers is a common challenge. In such a situation do not force your child to mingle. Let your guests know about your toddler’s fears in private. Then model the expected behavior in front of the child. Greet your guests and continue with mingling, all the time keeping your arm around your child or carrying your child to comfort him. In time your child will get used to such social interactions.
Pretend play as a tool to overcome toddler fears
Pretend play is a great way to introduce the subject of fears in a comfortable, safe and playful environment. You can talk about the fear, introduce characters that deal with the same fear or even get your child to face their fears during pretend play.
For example: Suppose your child is afraid of doctors, you can play pretend doctor games.
Or suppose your child is afraid to get into a taxi. You can introduce a pretend play taxi game. Where you are a taxi driver and he is the customer getting in.
Once he understands there no harm in the said fearful situation you can remind him the next time he is facing his feared situation how it is similar to the game you play at home.
Toddler years are opportunities for us as parents to use our creative minds and guide our children through life situations.
I find this phase of motherhood very exciting as I get to see my child navigate his world and be his guide through this journey.
I hope these tips help you ease your toddler’s fears.
As I become a more experienced mother I have learned many ways to make my parenting life easier and peaceful. Like every other skill we acquire, parenting is also an acquired skill. We make mistakes, we learn new things and we better ourselves in time.
Here are more articles focussed on the toddler years and ways to ease the varying challenges associated with the toddler years.
- 5 Surprisingly easy toddler chores to teach life skills
- Toddler eating habits: Challenges and solutions
- How to be a calm parent: Gentle parenting techniques
- Practical potty training tips by an experienced mom
- 5 Simple toddler sleep tips to help them sleep fast
- How to plan a stress-free road trip with toddlers
- How to get toddlers to eat vegetables without a fuss
- 8 Secrets to peaceful airplane travel with toddlers
- How to get toddlers to listen without yelling
Let me know in the comments below how you help your toddler deal with his fears?