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Five Tips for Dealing with Toddler Fears

We've never had any issues with my toddler being scared of imaginary things, until recently. He happened to have a bad dream and believed it was real. It was hard to explain the concept of a dream to him, because he was so convinced he wasn't dreaming.

At first, he was scared to go to sleep and wanted to hold my hand the whole time. Eventually, he realized, with reassurance from me, that what he feared wasn't real and has become his normal self. One of the things I learned from this experience is that toddlers can develop fear from the most unexpected things, and in unexpected ways. This is especially true of toddlers who are overly imaginative or highly sensitive.

Even seemingly innocent kids' shows on television can create fears in toddlers, so it is very important to strictly limit their screen time and monitor every single thing they watch. Sometimes, an off-hand remark by an adult (such as, 'I'm going to eat you up!') can lead to anxiety.

The bottom line is that fears are part of growing up and as parents, it can be difficult to see your toddler scared of something non-existent or innocent. But to them, it's very real, and can play havoc with routines, appetite, and sleep.

There is no shortcut to making a fear disappear and you have to be patient and calm to let it go off on its own, with your constant support.

Five tips to deal with fear in your toddler.


Here are five tips for dealing with fear in your toddler:


1. Try to find the root cause


Sometimes, it's just one incident that may lead to a nagging fear. When your toddler is in a talkative mood, try to bring out what led them to develop the fear. You can't ask outright, but you can ask related questions like, 'What don't you like about going to the bathroom?'. It's not always that simple, but when there is a single cause, at least you'll know what to address.

2. Validate their feelings


The last thing you want to say in response to a toddler's fear is, 'Don't be silly!'. You may think it silly for them to be scared of balloons, for instance, but for them, the thought of a balloon popping might be terrifying. Firstly, accept their fear as real, and something to be dealt with seriously. Tell them that you understand that they are scared, and it's okay. Assure them that you will work together to banish it.

3. Look for an immediate solution


Often, it will not be easy to get rid of a fear for a long time. One of the best things to do is to avoid the trigger altogether. For fear of the dark, get a night light. If your toddler is scared of balloons or clowns and you go to a party, let your host know in advance, or just don't go. Facing a fear head on is not exactly something that works for a toddler.

4. Gently allay the fear


An important thing toddlers need to feel is security from their parents. When dealing with fear, parents must make an extra effort to show them they are right there. Spend extra time together if you can. Gently talk about what causes them to be scared and try to assure them that it cannot harm them.

5. Use positive imagery


Beat negative thoughts with positive ones. Tell them funny stories. Play games. Make them laugh. In short, create positive imagery in their minds to overcome fearful thoughts. In our case, since Little Dude's fear was related to bedtime (and most toddler fears are), I made an effort to give him extra time to settle down and talked to him about things he liked, and positive experiences.

Above all, try to use reassuring words whenever you can. But don't lose sight of the fact that you must try to end or lessen the fear in your toddler. Have that aim in mind, however long it takes.


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23 comments

Chris Carter said...

Those are some great insights, Tarana. I love that you say to validate the toddlers emotions. I see so many parents push their kiddos into that fear with a "Oh that's ridiculous! You don't need to be afraid, come on!"

Watch that toddler scream and cry in response... trying to make their voice and feelings known and validated!

Meredith said...

#5 is always what I try. Distract them. :) That's my motto.

Merlinda Little said...

My son has been scared of our bedroom lights. I even thought that its a medical condition cuz he is saying its dancing. But we explained to him that the dancing is his eyes moving and that lights helps you see. He is still apprehensive about it but is getting better now. I just explain and explain and tell him that its wont get him as we are here. #pocolo

Tarana said...

That's what really matters to them, I think.

Tarana said...

Great motto!

Tarana said...

I'm sure he'll get over it. Meanwhile, see if you can change the lights or switch them temporarily.

Nina G said...

Recently one of my kids was scared of the fan blowing on the curtains, and he came out twice to our room about it. I like your tips about validating their feelings and not saying it's nothing to be scared about. Because clearly they are lol.

Katie @ Pick Any Two said...

These are great tips! I especially love the one about validating their feelings; I hear soooo many parents dismiss their child's fears or anxieties, not realizing that that only makes the problem worse. I'll be sharing this on Facebook later this week!

Tarana said...

True, their imagination can make anything seem scary. Glad you liked the post!

Tarana said...

Thank you Katie! I think it's a big mistake to dismiss fears which seem silly.

Jill Robbins said...

So helpful! My four year old has suddenly decided he's afraid of the shadow the curtains cast on the wall. This was definitely helpful.

Tarana said...

Thanks Vicky!

Tarana said...

Yes, fears have a way of coming up suddenly!

Kristi - Finding Ninee said...

Big helpful! My son comes to get me some nights sure that there's a bee in his room.

Mama MKDPR said...

What great advice- thanks! Will be these in mind for when our tot is old enough. I was absolutely terrified of wolves my entire childhood but couldn't figure out why until I watched The Never Ending Story and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as an adult. Those are both rated 'Universal' but clearly scared me to my core!
#sharewithme

Zena's Suitcase said...

Really great advice! Reassurance is a big thing isn't it, and never tell them there being silly. I don't think that helps at all #sharewithme

Tarana said...

Oh, it could be his ears ringing, but you probably know better!

Tarana said...

I agree, there were many kids' shows that scared me too!

Tarana said...

That's right!

Merlinda Little said...

We bought a night lamp. He loves it! And the light is not that much of an issue now though he is still not keen on them.

Let's Talk Mommy said...

What great advice!!! I haven't come across anything except dogs that my toddlers are scared of and swings when they were little but have grown out of both of those naturally. I hope they never really get bad fears as I know some toddlers can get. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. Happy Easter! #sharewithme

Tarana said...

Good to know that they aren't facing any difficult fears. Hope you had a great Easter!

Natasha Daniels said...

Good advice!

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