Addressing Your Child’s Fears
Column by Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool
It might seem appropriate to discuss this topic closer to Halloween, but it is not just that time of year that we need to address our children’s fears and anxieties. While children can enjoy scariness as early as age 4, there are a couple of things that allow them to handle the feeling of fear. First, a child has to know that he/she is safe, because someone he/she loves is nearby. Second, a child has to know that whatever is scaring him/her is only pretend.
At Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, because of the diverse age-level differences of our children, and because many young children are terribly frightened and overwhelmed by Halloween, we do not celebrate this holiday. We opt for fun instead of scary activities. We read stories that help children deal with feelings of anxiety during stressful times. We supply the water and sand play areas as effective opportunities for helping children release tensions, anxieties and fears.
Try This At Home:
• Turn off the television! The nervous systems of young children are really not equipped to handle the daily visions of violence and mayhem on television.
• At preschool, visit the sand and water play areas. These areas provide experiences that help children release tensions.
• If your child seems especially fearful, let him/her run his/her hands under cool running water; this is calming to young children.
• Be sure to give physical comfort (extra hugs, smiles, hand-holding) and assurance if your child is afraid or fearful. Pay attention.
• Play games such as the “Feelings Concentration Game” to give children practice in talking about their feelings.
• Provide a structure for stability and security by seeing to it that children have adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition. You must be willing to calmly make decisions for children when they cannot handle making choices for themselves.
• We must always be respectful of children’s feelings. At the same time, we must give children “tools” for dealing with feelings, such as washing hands under cool water when afraid, counting when angry, or taking deep breaths, etc.
Remember: During these frightening uncertain times, we must remember to address our own fears in order to help our children address theirs.
Contributions from Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, a program of Partners in Development Foundation. Tutu and Me is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.