In many ways, the presence of themes like fear and caution are enormously beneficial for young children as they develop, allowing them to stay safe and healthy. However, there are situations where infants and toddlers develop significant fears that go beyond basic instinct, including some cases where these fears impact their daily lives and are severe enough to warrant attention from parents and other caregivers.
At Lit’l Scholars Learning Center, our infant and toddler child care services in Salt Lake City are provided by professionals with in-depth knowledge of child development and mental progress. While we understand that many forms of fear and anxiety are perfectly natural responses from your children, we also use time-tested techniques to help them slowly work through their fears and improve the ways they react to them. Here are some of the tactics we use — tactics that can also be promoted by parents at home in many situations.
Identifying the Source of Fear
While this may sound easy as we mention it, many parents and professional caregivers have a difficult time pinpointing the exact source of a fear in their children. For infants, this is often reliant on them being able to communicate with words or sign language, although it can sometimes be possible for toddlers if they are willing to talk about things that scare them without getting too upset.
In many cases, fears arise from common circumstances such as thunderstorms, house fires or even household appliances. If you can identify the source of the fear and avoid it, your infant or toddler may naturally start to become less afraid of it over time.
Don’t Dismiss It
It’s vital that, once you’ve identified the source of a harrowing experience, you don’t dismiss the fear as being unjustified. If your infant or toddler wakes up from a nightmare about something that happened recently or starts crying at the sight of a monster in their closet, embrace them and tell them it’s okay to be afraid right now — but also let them know that it will all be okay in the end.
Telling them that there’s no reason to be afraid or that they’ve gotten into your good books, then moving on is a great way to reinforce their fears and make them feel alone. This is why it’s important for parents to take an active role in addressing these concerns through both words and actions when they are able to.
Protection From Fear Sources — To a Point
In certain situations, such as if your young child was attacked by a dog, keeping them away from these circumstances in the future makes a lot of sense. However, especially for more limited fears, you want to carefully ride the line between keeping your infant or toddler safe and sending the message that their fears are valid.
Holding them for a little bit at first, then setting them down and letting them go is usually one of the best ways to do this. It allows children to feel that they’re still supported, but allows them personal experience and a sense of control over their own surroundings. It’s also important to make it clear that they’ve been through something frightening and hard, without scaring them further by repeating the circumstances — which is why pointing out things like thunderstorms or fireworks displays can be extremely tricky to balance.
For more on how to manage basic fears and anxieties in toddlers and infants, or to learn about any of our SLC child care programs, speak to the staff at Lit’l Scholars Learning Center today.