5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

Common Toddler Fears

I recently did a straw poll of over 50 mums and dads with toddlers to identify a list of common toddler fears; the following were identified as common:

Hand driers

Dogs

Mannequins or people in fancy dress

Bugs and creepy crawlies

Public toilets

Lawnmower

Vacuum cleaner or hoover

common toddler fears

Not so common toddler fears

As this was an unscientific poll it did throw up some really interesting fears, some very specific and as a precursor to saying that we shouldn’t belittle our little one’s fears later in this article there are some that were too funny not to mention.  These included:

“My daughter 2 year old is scared of the toilet because it has eyes on the inside of the lid…And she is scared of mannequins, especially the ones that don’t have any facial features… in a nutshell- if it has a face she probably won’t like it and if it doesn’t have a face she’s not happy either..”

“Fat men he doesn’t know. Not even joking. It’s embarrassing when he starts getting upset and hiding because of the big fat man”

“Oh and the wheat bag thing you stick in the microwave. He’s 2″

“The wobbly shed! PS it doesn’t wobble”

“Big mega poos until they come out”

5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

We had a spell recently where Joss started asking ‘what’s that noise’ and asking to be carried or hugged if we heard a hoover, lawnmower, loud roadworks, car alarm etc.

More concerning for us as parents though was a really tough time where she was scared of M.O.N.S.T.E.R.S (yep monsters, we had to spell it out to avoid using the word for a good month and a half).

From the scary – “there’s a monster in my bed Mammy, it’s purple and I don’t like it” –  to the ridiculous – hearing “what’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster” by The Automatic in a charity shop and Joss needing to leave the store NOW to get away from it! – it wasn’t an easy time as it really disrupted her sleep and disturbed her.

The problem was, Joss was unable to say what a monster was or where she’d heard the word or got the idea to be scared so it was hard for us to tackle.  Here’s what we found worked after some research, these form our 5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

1) Recognise the fear

Don’t belittle their fear, it’s very real for them however imagined or surreal it might seem to us big people.  We acknowledged that Joss was scared of monsters and talked about them in a way she could understand, I said that I could understand how it felt to be afraid – “it’s hard when something is scary, I understand you don’t want to go into the living room, let’s hold hands and go in together”

2) Talk about the fear truthfully, use books or other tools

Rather than saying that there’s no reason to be afraid or that monsters are not real we talked about them instead.  She had some books about monsters, we talked about how they looked silly, what colours they were, that they made us laugh.  She still had this dialogue of ‘monsters are scary’ but that slowly started to be replaced by ‘monsters are silly…’  We had some tough decisions about whether to start with monster spray or clear the room rituals that Id read about, I am glad we avoided these as I think they may have sustained or reinforced the fears instead, I think it helped more to be consistent and offer lots of repetition and praise.  For slightly older children asking them to draw a monster or another fear might be a useful tool

3) Use lots of praise

I praised Joss’ efforts to overcome her fears, we had a spell where she insisted there was a scary monster under her chair, I encouraged her to point to the scary monster and say you’re not scary, you’re silly, and when she did I used lots of praise and encouragement, when she started to get scared of loud noises we did the same.

4) Use humour but don’t laugh about it if they’re upset

Children can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary so don’t laugh at them when they’re afraid, help them talk their way through the fear with you instead.

5) Make nighttime less scary

At the height of our time exploring monster fears Joss started to show signs of becoming afraid during bedtime, we did a lot of work to reassure her that Mammy and Daddy are here for her and we kept the hall light on for a few evenings.  Over time her fears started to subside.  Then we noticed that at times of change, my working away for a few days or her grandparents going on holiday and not seeing them for a little while seemed to unsettle her and bring back the fears again.  With lots of praise and reassurance we have been helping her to understand change and prepare her for change by talking to her about where she is going for the day, what we are doing and building a strong sense of attachment.

As her fears decrease she has become bolder, sometimes shouting monster, run! She has also started to draw monsters and give them names so we’re moving away from something she’s too scared to speak about to her being able to be much more vocal about the fear and work it out for herself.

Do your little ones have any fears?  How do you help them through?

Mums' Days

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