Generally speaking, toddlers outgrow their fears on their own as they mature and become confident little preschoolers. However, in some cases certain toddlerhood fears persist well into adulthood if they’re not addressed properly and conquered. In order to empower your toddlers and help them get over their fears, try the following proven strategies:
Educate your child
Older toddlers might benefit from a simple and logical explanation regarding something they fear, such as explaining that loud police sirens are good because they let other cars know that they need to move aside so that the policemen can quickly reach the people they need to help.
Younger toddlers, on the other hand, might not be able to grasp your explanation, so demonstrating your point might be more effective. For example, if your toddler is terrified of being sucked up by the vacuum cleaner, it might feel better after you display how only biscuit crumbs can be sucked up but trucks, dolls and mommy’s foot can’t be.
Expose your toddler indirectly to their source of fear
If your toddler is afraid of dogs, loud fire engines, or being flushed down the toilet, read them a story about a small child who bonds closely with a pet dog, visits a fire station and rides a fire engine, or uses the toilet and survives the experience! Such stories can give your child more confidence to face their fears and view them with less negativity.
Do not under any circumstances expose your child to cartoons, TV shows or stories that can worsen your child’s fears, such as ones that show a dog acting aggressively or attacking a person if your toddler is afraid of dogs.
Desensitize your toddler from a distance
Help your child feel more at ease around their source of fear by holding them or standing close to them when they’re being exposed to it from a distance. For example, if your toddler is afraid of vacuum cleaners, carry your child and watch from the other side of the room while daddy vacuums the floor, or stand next to your toddler when you flush the toilet if they have a fear of being flushed along with the water.
In the same way, if your child is afraid of dogs, have your toddler watch a playmate play with a small dog, making sure that you’re both near enough to the other child and dog to hear the playmate laugh and interact with the animal.
Increase your toddler’s sense of control
Fear intensifies when a person feels like they’ve lost control. By helping your child feel more in control of the things they fear, they will grow more confident and will be better able to conquer their anxiety. For example, have your toddler experiment with turning the vacuum cleaner on and off to show them that they are in control of the vacuum cleaner and not the other way around.
If your child is afraid of imaginary monsters that supposedly lurk in the dark, arm them with props that give them more confidence in their control over the situation, such as a flashlight, a child-friendly nightlight, a treasured stuffed toy that can stand guard, or a special “magic word” that your child can use to banish monsters if they pop up.
Introduce humor into a scary situation
Never, ever make fun of your toddlers’ fears, but it can help to turn a potentially scary situation into one that your child can find humor in. It’s also a good idea to help your toddler relax by cuddling them and redirecting their attention to soothing and fun activities such as playing with clay or helping you bake cookies.
Allow your child to express their fears
Letting your child vent about their fears can help them come to terms with them. All you need to do is listen understandingly when your child talks about what they’re scared of and how they feel when exposed to such objects.