Wednesday, January 18, 2012

when preschoolers develop fears

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Bear (who is 3) has recently developed a feAR oF tHe dARk and going to sleep.  i will admit that this surprises me, especially when we have a family bed.  it has gotten so that it is a 45-sometimes 90 minute struggle to get him to go to sleep for naptime and bed.  as you can imagine, this leads to a grumpy Bear and a disgruntled Momma.

after talking to him about his fears, he told me that he's afraid to go to sleep because he doesn't want to have baD dReaMS.  this current development has prompted some hard thinking on my part about how sleep times are handled in our house.  as a practicer of attachment parenting, i want to do everything in my power to help my son feel secure and safe... and to be assured that it's okay to feel the way he does. 

there are a many things that children can be afraid of:
the dark
bad dreams
people in costumes
the flushing of the toilet
being alone/without parents

i will openly admit to being afraid of clowns/mimes/some porcelean dolls and drive-thru car washes.  silly and irrational?  absolutely.  but are they paralyzing to me? absolutely.
knowing that i have these fears, i want others around me to validate them.
i don't want to be made to feel stupid or embarrassed about them.
i take all of this in consideration when dealing with Bear and his fears.  

how can we deal with these fears that strike our children so hard, but are illogical to us?

  • Make your child comfortable.  shoving your 3 year old towards the great-aunt sally he sees once a year is likely to induce even more anxiety in your child causing them to cry or cling to you.
  • Don't share your fears with your kiddo.  for instance, my fear of clowns really shouldn't be shared with my son, though i admit to doing it. [mommy fail]
  • Try bibliotherapy.  there is such a wide variety of children's books out there that cover fear inducing topics such as: monsters under the bed, first haircuts, going to the doctor, the first day of school, etc.  reading books of this variety may help children to deal with their fears.
  • Sympathize with your child.  try not to belittle their feelings by telling them that they shouldn't be afraid.  instead try an approach that shows you understand and validate their fears.  for instance, "i know that thunderstorms can be scary because of all the noise.  would you like to cuddle and read a book/sing a song/watch a movie/pray together?"
  • Turn to your faith.  if you are a family that practices a faith, pray together that you can hand your fears up to God.  A simple verse is "Don't be afraid for I am with you." Isaiah 41:10, NLT

these are just the approaches that i've used with Bear.  but i'd like to know:

how do you handle the fears of your child?

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