We toddler parents know what it feels like to see fear in our little, precious kiddos! It’s that awkward age where two-way, toddler-to-adult conversation is sparse. Without the use of words and conversation; it’s hard to know what they are afraid of!
In my “bucket o’ toddler tricks”, I have a solution! Children can develop fears from visual and physical experience(s). If they get startled by a loud noise coming from a red lawnmower, they may fear red lawnmowers — or they may fear any red, moving object. If they are left in the dark or trip over the stairs, they may fear the dark or fear the stairs. Some children have a higher tolerance for fear and overcome it rather quickly; some take more time. It’s how we help them deal with the experience (visual or physical) that can limit the length of time that a fear “festers”.
We’ve instituted a method in our child-rearing process: Immediate Facing of Fears.
ACK! Well, it’s not as harsh as it sounds. All it means is that when a fearful experience occurs, we immediately repeat the experience (to a safe level of course).
For example, today Gwen fell off the steps at the playground. She was on her way up to the slide; she had a goal to conquer that slide, and boy were we going to get her on it! As soon as she fell off, we put her right back on. Tears and all. We made sure she wasn’t injured, comforted her and offered her a little extra assistance. Then we let her own the completion of that goal. She didn’t have the opportunity to build up any fear of those steps!
The smile on her face while she slid down that slide was precious and she forgot all about that bloody lip!
A word of caution: make sure they are safe and make sure they understand WHY they got hurt or scared. Just communicating with her about the situation helped her to be more careful.
You might think that this is dangerous and that it instills reckless behavior in children. I can assure you, the exact opposite is true. My kids understand situations better and rarely get injured or scared. They are tough and they’ve been taught to be that way!
An article on Kidshealth.org sums it up nicely: “The key to resolving fears and anxieties is to overcome them.” — D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Kids are resilient. They are learning every day. If we give them the opportunity and time to experience life, they’ll carry that resiliency into adulthood.