Of all age groups, toddlers are most liable to be constantly
reminded of how small and vulnerable they are at any change in routine. Often, they experience the
world as large and scary and fear for their place in it.
Their fears may most commonly be
- Using the potty
In the highly regarded book, Magic Years, by Selma Fraiberg, Dr. Fraiberg relates a
not uncommon fear among very small children of disappearing down the bathtub drain. Is it any
wonder, then, that they are also scared later of falling into the toilet?
Fears are also
palpable to children in the dark and this may cause a lot of trouble at bedtime. During these
moments, it is essential to be supportive – but the goal in the long run should be to help your
toddlers develop the skills and confidence to work their fears out on their own.
Here are a
few suggestions to help your kids cope:
- Be sympathetic – but not overprotective
- Listen and then talk – let your toddlers talk out their bad dreams. It’s your job then
to assure them that dreams are not real and there is nothing to be scared of
prolong the good-byes – this only adds to their anxiety. See also our article on Separation
- Reassure them that you’ll be back soon – give them an approximate time and
then keep your promise
- Help them develop skills – give your toddlers a small lamp to
help them sleep or teach them to use a small flash light to learn to use the potty on their own
- Avoid the temptation to say things like, “Stop being silly,” or “You’re being
ridiculous.” Kids need to know that you respect their feelings. You should still help them see
evidence that no one is under the bed, but make sure they understand that you’re on their side.
On the positive side, parents should realize that fear is a sign that their children
are gaining a sense of their selves. It is a normal part of their children’s cognitive development,
as they learn to deal with the difference between the known and the new and unknown.