Remember your child’s first step? First word? First tooth? Developmental milestones typically affect the family in a positive way; but as children begin to experience fear, the entire family can be traumatized.
Whether your child is afraid of the dark or of letting go of Mom, you can take simple steps to help your preschooler cope with fear.
- Help children understand their feelings. The concept of fear can be difficult for young children to comprehend. Search for age-appropriate photos of people and animals. Explain that all of God’s creatures feel afraid sometimes. Once we remember that we are safe, those bad feelings will go away.
- Shine some light on the subject. Even familiar objects can look scary in the dark. Examine your child’s room in light-vs.-night. Emphasize the fact that even though objects may look different, they are still the same. Give your child a flashlight. When something looks scary, shine the light on it to make the “scary go away!”
- Learn about Jonah and Daniel. Those classic Bible stories remind us that God is with us everywhere. Help children remember that even when they feel alone, God is with them. Adhere glow-in-the-dark stars above your child’s bed as a reminder that God always watches over us.
- Role play to help with separation anxiety. Take turns pretending to leave the house. Say “Bye. I’ll see you later!” and leave the room. Then come back in with a big smile and hug. Remind your child that when you say good-bye at school, church, or play dates, that you will always return.
- Share happy thoughts. Before a scary situation, help your child focus on the positive by naming things that make you both happy. Take turns coming up with ideas such as running, snuggling, kittens, or friends.
- Dare to dream. Engage your child in a positive discussion about dreams: “What are you going to be in your dreams tonight? I think I will be a mermaid. Or maybe Ill go on a dragon ride.” Build your child’s excitement as you focus on the fun of dreams. In the morning, always ask: “What did you dream?”
Julie Cantrell served as the Just for Fun editor for MOMSense for many years and has written MOPS material for nearly a decade. She is the author of God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night (Zonderkidz), two picture books designed to help young children overcome fears such as nightmares and separation anxiety while building their faith in God. Learn more at: http://juliecantrell.wordpress.com