Dealing with toddler fear can seem quite overwhelming for some parents. Here are some personal tips to help with rational and irrational toddler fears. Any suggestions from you could be a real help to others.
Most parents of toddlers have more than likely experienced their toddler being afraid of something. This fear can be real or imagined - being afraid of a bath, dog or thunder. It could have been an irrational fear, like fear of the dark or night terrors.
This toddler parenting article will help those parents who have toddlers who are generally fearful or who have specific fears in certain areas. Please read this article if your toddler suffers from separation anxiety as I will not be covering that topic here.
As toddlers, two of my children had spates of fear. The one child was terrified of strange dogs and my other had night terrors. But whether it be dogs, bath water, loud noises or another tangible thing, your toddler will be hugely comforted by a parent who does not react to the self same thing.
For instance, when my toddler began to get nervous on a walk as she saw a dog approaching she would start to talk excitedly. The closer the dog came the more she would ask to be picked up.
In the beginning before we had determined the root of the problem we would pick her up. When we discovered that the fear had been set off by one incident where a friend's dog had jumped up at her in welcome, we set about dealing with it in another way.
It is important to first deal with the cause or root of the problem when dealing with a tangible toddler fear. Talking it through, often over and over again, explaining the why and how to a toddler, is often enough to help them take the first step to over come their fear.
If the toddler fear is of water, then make sure to include water play in your toddler's activities. If it is fear of bathing, then start bathing them in a smaller basin and graduate in stages to the big bath. Our toddlers also loved to bath with dad when they were able to sit safely in a bath which can be a great way to mimic "brave bath behaviour".
But back to our daughter's dog fear. When we had ascertained the cause of the fear, we were very careful to make many opportunities for her to practice bravery. As a dog would approach we would talk about the dog, tell of its breed, why dogs get excited when they see children, about the dog's body language and so on.
We also took her to our friend's home where the incident first happened and, with our friend's help, got our toddler and the dog together in a controlled happy environment. To this day our now 15 year old daughter remembers cuddling this same dog that frightened her so. We even found them together a couple of times in the dog's basket after reconciliation was made.
While nightmares, night terrors, toddler fear of the dark and the like are very real to the toddler, they can be classified as imagined fears. A well known child care expert also mentions fears of monsters and ghosts in toddler hood.
I must digress here and share my own opinion on toddler's who are afraid of these types of things. I believe that children should not be exposed to this kind of material. A toddler who has not been read a book, heard a story or seen a movie with these counterproductive things in will never need to be afraid of them. I believe it is the parent's duty to protect their children's minds and hearts and make sure they are not exposed to this trash.
However, if children have been exposed to this through friends, family members or playschool, then you need to deal with it gently and firmly. Begin by telling them that they are not real. When they are older you can teach about the supernatural realm, but honestly, at ages 18 - 36 months it is not appropriate. Do not "flush them [monsters/ghosts] down the toilet" or "vacuum them away" as this child expert advises, because you are lying to your child.
As a Christian parent I would first establish the truth for my toddler, then pray with them and then deal with it through dialogue as and when necessary.
As I said, another of our children battled with bad dreams as a little tot and even as a tween had very vivid dreams. We have always erred on the side of conservatism with what TV, books and music our children are exposed too and we see that this is very necessary for visual children like this one.
Dealing with toddler fear nightmares/terrors and bad dreams can be quite taxing on a parent as your own sleep routine is interrupted. But your own calming reassuring presence is very important at this time. Night terrors can last but a moment or as long as 20 minutes. They can just be crying out for a parent to full blown screaming and thrashing around. If your child is abusive and says things that you know are out of character, do not react to them.
The first thing to do is determine whether your child is asleep or awake when they start calling. If they are asleep do not attempt to wake them, but just talk to them in a soothing calm voice affirming them of your presence and love.
If they wake it is good to switch on a night light, pick them into your arms and stay with them. Our child had a little song that we sung to her when she was distressed and we would sing this to her when she woke from a bad dream.
When your child is calm, lay them back down to sleep and leave the room. There is no need to over dramatize the event and bed down together. This just creates a dependency on you for something that your toddler can over come on their own.
We also found that even the simplest thing of a good bedtime routine, no TV before bed and careful monitoring of input helped our toddler overcome their night mares in a relatively short period of time.
I am aware that parents visiting this websites will not be of the same faith but I do believe that my toddlers overcame their fears with their nighttime prayer. What do you think or suggest?
Please do not ignore toddler fear, its real to them. If in any doubt contact a professional, or chat to other parents.
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