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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Conquering the Monsters in the Closet

So if you are the parent of a toddler, you may have already started hearing about how he's scared of the "monsters in the closet" (or under the bed, or behind the door...you name it - they're there!). As adults, of course, we know that these monsters really don't exist, but try proving that to your 3-year old (remember how REAL they seemed to you when you were that little?!)! Of course, it's totally natural, and often times actually good that they have fears (they NEED to be afraid of a hot stove/growling dog/creepy man to keep safe, afterall, right?), but when fears arise, regardless of them being irrational or not, of course we only want to soothe our children and make the fear just go away.

Coping Skills & Physical Aides
With younger kids, say 2 or 3 years old, they are often afraid of things they simply don't understand. So if they hear a thunderstorm, for example, it might sound scary to them, and so they'll be afraid of it. One strategy for this would be to find some books about "happy" thunderstorms, for example, or just to get yourself excited about the storm when it comes and try explaining why thunderstorms are good and that you actually like them! Make sure you don't make them feel silly about being afraid, but let them know that their fear is just a misunderstanding, and that reasons "x, y, and z" are why they needn't be afraid of the storm. For the common fear of the dark, a night-light works wonders, of course. For smaller & tangible things they might fear, you might want to try putting physical "protectors" over the culprit. If kids can just see the protector, that will usually cure the problem. This theory goes hand-in-hand with the generalization that physical items kids can hold on to give them comfort. Take the lovie/security blankies you see many small children carrying around themselves, for example ~ they're an easy, practical solution that bring many kids comfort at a very economical price. (Check out Adam's Blankie for some designer knottie ribbon sensory blankies!)

Facts & Steps Taken
As children get older, their fears become less abstract and more about experiences in life that have already happened to them or their friends, or that they've seen on the television perhaps. One example might be dealing the with death of a grandparent. Psychologist Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D., says it is healthy to discuss death, and that explaining to your child that you intend to live long, and that you've done such things as eating healthy, exercising, for example, to help make sure that happens, will comfort them. For tragedies they might witness on the t.v., you could first and foremost, make sure you know exactly what t.v. shows they're watching, and limit the "scary" things (news being one of them!). But, as we all know, we can only keep them from hearing about and seeing things for so long, so if they've already witnessed a scary hurricane on t.v. that wiped out a town, explaining the rarity of the event, along with explaining steps you've taken to help stay safe should it happen to your family, are helpful.

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