It can be fear of the dark, of cats, noises, vacuum cleaners – almost anything.
The most important principle is that if the child finds it scary, then we need to take this seriously. Fear is very real for children, who don’t know much about the world yet, and it can build up into big problems of behaviour if we don’t respond sensitively
We need to take a two-pronged approach
Firstly, help the child to manage fear
- sometimes having a comforting object can help
- telling stories where people have been scared but it turned out alright
- listening to your child and saying it is ok to be scared – talk about what might make it better and try out some of the child’s ideas
- Using a favourite toy – maybe teddy is scared too – how can your child help teddy
Secondly, once the fear has passed, showing that whatever it is they fear is not actually dangerous by …
- having some positive experiences with the thing – e.g., meeting a nice gentle dog, playing with torches in the dark, letting your child switch the hoover on and off, etc
- putting the experience into a story – for example, how it gets dark so everyone can sleep so they are ready to play
Try not to get into patterns of your child checking – e.g., for monsters under the bed – as these can be hard to get out of. Instead, look yourself or give factual information about monsters – they aren’t real!