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Common Toddler Fears

Because most of our world is new to toddlers, they don’t know what is “good” and what is “bad”.  Therefore, toddlers can deal with a lot of fears as they learn about their environments.  Below are some common toddler fears and how parents can help their toddlers overcome these fears.

1.      Fear of the dark/fear of monsters.  Explain that there is nothing in the dark that isn’t present in the light .  Explain that there is no such thing as monsters.   Do a thorough search of the room; help your toddler see that there are no monsters.  Provide assurances of safety.  Use a night light in the toddler’s bedroom.  Explain the benefits of darkness.  Do not let your toddler watch or hear scary movies.  Refrain from speaking about fear-reinforcing things (i.e., the burglar who broke into your neighbor’s home last night) in front of your toddler.

2.      Fear of loud noises (i.e., thunder, wind, barking dogs, and slamming doors).  Explain the noises (i.e., “That dog isn’t trying to hurt you.  He’s trying to talk to you. He doesn’t speak English; he speaks bark.”).  Provide assurances of safety, but also instill proper respect for the source of the noise (i.e., don’t play outside when there’s lightning because the electricity . . .  don’t get near a dog when he’s growling because dogs just like humans can be fussy . . . etc.).  Explain the benefits of whatever prompted the loud noises (i.e., “Thunder and lightning are good things.  They come with rain.  Rain nourishes our grass, trees, bushes, and even our flower and vegetable gardens.”).

3.      Fear of strangers.  Explain when to respond to “stranger danger” and when strangers should not cause fear (i.e., when the toddler’s parent is nearby and is observably comfortable with the person that the toddler does not know).   Teach appropriate responses to “stranger danger” such that the toddler may feel that s/he has at least some control over his/her situation with a stranger.   Explain that all friends start out as strangers . . . until you get to know them.

4.      Fear of pain (i.e., from doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, haircuts, etc.).     Explain what is about to happen (i.e., at the appointment) and the level of pain that can reasonably be expected from it.  Provide assurances of safety.  Explain the benefits of whatever is about to happen (i.e., “If you never get a haircut, you’ll walk around looking shaggy.  Next thing you know, people will think you’re a puppy rather than a boy because you’re covered in hair!”).  Take the toddler with you to your own similar appointment so the toddler can see that there’s no reason for fear.

5.      Fear of people in costumes.  Explain that a regular person is inside the costume.  Ask that person to take off the mask so that the toddler can see that there’s just a regular person inside there.  Provide assurances of safety.   Explain the fun of costumes.

6.      Fear of abandonment.  Explain that you will always be there for your toddler.  Remind toddler that you’ve always been there so far and that you’re not going anywhere.

7.      Fear of whatever you fear.  If you fear something, your toddler will pick up on that and will likely develop a similar fear of his/her own.  To prevent this, try not to show fear around your toddler.

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