Does your toddler have what seems like irrational fears? Mine does. For several weeks he refused to go in the bath or shower without being held because he was convinced he would be sucked down the plughole. I know how frustrating it can be. It can make life difficult, to say the least. Here’s the thing though. Despite how irrational their fears seem to us…they are very real to them. So let’s get on to talking about how to manage and overcome them.
Respect Their Fear
As I mentioned above, while their fears seem irrational to us, they are very real to them. Just because we don’t understand why they’re afraid doesn’t mean they will magically stop being fearful. Be respectful and acknowledge to your toddler that you understand that they are afraid. Ignoring their fear will only make the situation worse. In order for them to work through their fear, they need to feel safe. By respecting them they will be able to trust you and be more ready to work through things.
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
~ Catherine M. Wallace
Help Them Reason Through It
Toddlers don’t yet have the capability of rationalising things for themselves. Take my previous story for example:
My son was fearful of being sucked down the plughole. I get that the sound it makes, while it is draining, makes it seem a bit scary, but I know that a person is physically too large to fit down there. My toddler, however, does not. That is where I come in.
You as the parent can calmly sit down with your child and explain the logic of it. Sometimes reasoning through it can be enough to help them overcome the fear, especially if you’ve got their trust. It is SO important that during this phase in their lives where so much changes every moment, you are their calm.
Help Them Through It While They Feel Safe
If your child has a seemingly irrational fear, it won’t help to try and dimish it while you’re in the midst of the situation. Wait for a time when your child feels safe, and then approach the fear and see if you can do some role play or something to that effect to help them through it. We would show Jack the bath while he wasn’t in it, and then once he was a bit more confident about that, my husband held him in the shower until he started becoming comfortable enough to stand in the shower on his own. After a week or two, he was happy to have a bath as long as his sister was in their with him. Now, a couple months later, he’s back to being happy in the bath on his own. It took time and patience, but it worked.
If none of your strategies work, then this is my last piece of advice. Respect their fear and trust that it won’t last forever. Continue to be their safe place and their ‘reason’. They will eventually understand more as they grow and develop, and in the meantime, you’re building a healthy, trusting relationship with your child.
Until next time!
This week the ladies of the BFBN (Babywise Friendly Blogging Network) are all writing on the topic of fears. You can find their posts below:
- Monday: Valerie from Chronicles of a Babywise Mom – What To Do When Your Child Is Scared of the Dark
- Tuesday: Natasha from Let’s Be Brave – 9 Ways To Teach Kids Bravery
- Tuesday: Katrina from Mama’s Organized Chaos – How To Easer Your Toddler’s Fears
- Wednesday: Christine from Christine Keys – 3 Powerful Ways To Conquer Your Toddler’s Irrational Fears
- Wednesday: Carrie from Wiley Adventures – Managing Fears At Bedtime
- Thursday: Kimberly from Team Cartwright – Real vs. Fake Fear: How to Distinguish Between the Two
- Friday: Emily from The Journey of Parenthood – How To Help Prevent Childhood Fears