Fearful toddlers come front and center this time of year when there's so many scary costumes and Halloween displays about. There are plenty of strategies you can employ to diffuse your little one's fears. Here are some ways you can help your little one manage the scary feelings he has inside, fromt he book Seven Steps to Help Your Child Worry Less, (Specialty Press; 2003) by Kristy Hagar, Ph.D.


 

Strategies to Assure a Frightened Child

(Whether it's from a thunder storm, a dog, a loud noise, a Halloween costume or otherwise!)

  • VALIDATE: Help your child put their fears into words. If your child expresses a fear of dogs, you can say something like, “Dogs make you feel a little unsure. You don’t like when they bark loudly.”

  • MAKE HIM FEEL SECURE: Make it clear what you’re doing to protect your child: “I know you worry about dogs, so I will carry you while we go inside to pick up your brother.”

  • MOVE ON QUICKLY: If you make too big a deal out of your child’s fear, you run the risk of giving the fear more power. For example, if your 3-year-old tells you she is afraid of her dark bedroom at bedtime and you swoop in and move her to your bed, she will learn that her bedroom is, actually, a pretty scary place to sleep!

  • PROVIDE TOOLS: Suggest age-appropriate fear-busting strategies. You might say, “The night-time shadows can be a little spooky. Would you like me to turn on the lamp? Would you like to choose a special stuffed animal to cuddle? I will sit with you for a few minutes while you get cozy again.”

  • GIVE ENCOURAGEMENT: And be patient. Working through fears, especially for a toddler or preschooler, takes time — especially since they still believe in monsters and all the creatures that live in their imaginations. Offer a consistent, caring response and notice when your child makes progress: “It was so brave of you to pet Maddie. She is a sweet dog.”

 

READ MORE ON TODDLERS:

RISK-TAKING TODDLERS AND HOW TO PARENT THEM
SEPARATION ANXIETY AND OTHER HARD STUFF WITH YOUR LITTLE
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD BECOME INDEPENDENT AT HOME