Featured in Infants & Toddlers
Toddlers typically start developing fears – fears that often seem irrational to parents. Common fears are fear of the dark, monsters, strangers, water and so on. There are also less common fears that toddlers might develop out of nowhere. These fears can include: fear of brushing their teeth, fear of bathrooms or toilets, animals, and costumes.
Methods of Discipline
Dealing with toddler fears can be frustrating for many parents, especially if the fear appears to come out from nowhere or is what the parent thinks as completely irrational. There are things you can do as a parent to help your child learn to manage his/her fears on his/her own.
1. Expose your child in a gentle way to situations or things that you think might be scary to him/her. Be a role model by showing your child how to stay calm and coaching him/her through a situation that could be perceived as being scary. Also, point out how other children are handling the fear as most toddlers enjoy emulating how older children behaves.
2. Use honesty in situations where you know a situation is going to happen that is going to hurt them (ie a vaccination) or is going to be scary (ie a thunderstorm). Tell the toddler the truth and try to turn it into as positive of a situation as you can. This should help your toddler confront his/her fear head-on, as well as learn to trust you as a parent.
3. Try reading books or telling stories about other kids who were scared of similar things and what they did to overcome their fears. Feel free to use your imagination to come up with inventive ideas!
4. Manage your own anxieties, fears and worries so that you don’t pass them on to your children. Keep calm in scary situations (even if you don’t feel calm!) so that your toddler can develop a sense of security and confidence.
5. Talk to your toddler about fears. Explain to them the difference between pretend and real and even explain how things works (ie toilets, weather). Sometimes fear of the unknown can exacerbate irrational fears so by explaining things, it may be enough to tamper down or even get rid of the fear entirely.
Helping Your Child Cope
To help your toddler cope with fears, regardless if they are rational or irrational, take his/her concern seriously. Do not discount how they are feeling – the fear may not seem like a big deal to you but to your toddler, it is very real and very scary. Also, try to come up with ideas on how to combat the fear and create a safe place for the child. For example, if your son is afraid of the monsters in his closet, make checking in the closet before bed part of the bedtime routine. Also, fill a spray bottle with water and tell your son that once he sprays his room, no new monsters can come in and then work with your child to make a sign that states this and hang it on his bedroom door.
Some solutions can be really simple and are tried-and-true solutions. For instance, if your daughter is afraid of the dark, install a night-light in her room. It can be as simple as that to get her to sleep in her own bed again.