Fear is a feeling that is cultivated and requires special care and attention if you don’t want that fear to carry through your child’s life.
Babies are not in bred with fears at birth. Fear is a learned neural process that develops after first-hand experience of a traumatic event (fear of fire due to getting burned before for example) or even through the process of simple observation (fear of monsters due to watching a scary show). We’ve listed 5 fears that young ones seem most afraid of and how parents can slowly teach their children how to face their fears and become stronger.
- Fear of the Dark
This is a standard fear in most toddlers. Scary and evil events in movies and shows with dark scenes bring feelings of vulnerability. Children’s inability to see in the dark breeds wild thoughts and transforms their imagination into grotesque and scary forms.
The way to combat this fear is through progression. You cannot expect to turn the lights off and force your children to sleep with the lights off. This will only heighten the intensity of the fear. Start off by introducing a night light, and then when they are more comfortable, take it away. You could also take your children for night walks and point out the marvels of Mother Nature (like the stars) and how it would not be possible without the darkness.
- Fear of Monsters
There’s no point in telling children that monsters do not exist in this world. They’re not going to believe you; what they see on their media devices will be what they believe in. The best way to solve this problem is to humour their fears and check the “potential monster spots” before bedtime. You could also arm them with an air freshener spray and stick a “monster buster” label on the bottle and tell them that after spraying the room, the monsters will never be able to enter. Plus, you’ll get a nice smelling room.
- Fear of Doctors & Dentists
A trip to the doctor usually results in probing by someone they’re unfamiliar with or an injection. Dentists are also high on the fear factor due to that loud drill and plucking out loose teeth routine. This fear is based off the feelings of pain that are associated with each visit.
Classical conditioning works best in these scenarios. They should be rewarded for their cooperation with the medical procedures required. Also, before going for any treatments, you should pre-empt your child in a calm and soothing manner. Bring a toy or a drawing book for your child to be engaged in while waiting for the doctor or dentist to take their mind off things.
- Fear of Separation
Toddlers become anxious or afraid as soon as they cannot see their primary caregivers. This is because they spend a huge amount of time with their primary caregivers and regard them as beacons of security and assurance.
There should be a ritual of sorts when saying goodbye – a kiss on the forehead and a brief goodbye would suffice. The child will then link the kiss on the forehead to your “disappearance” for a couple of hours before they will see you again. It also helps if your child is distracted with an activity like playing with toys or colouring a book for example.
- Fear of Bad Dreams
Bad dreams are part and parcel of any human being. The problem with toddlers is that they do not know that and when they have a bad dream, they have the misconception that what happened in their nightmare is real. This can give birth to the inability to sleep alone or the inability to even sleep.
When your child has a bad dream, you’ll know it by being woken up by screams and cries. Rush over and comfort them immediately by telling them it was a bad dream, that they are in a safe environment and informing them that you’ll always be there to help. Pass your little one her favourite blanket, toy or pillow to hold to further soothe her.