What scares your child the most? Monsters under the bed? Thunder? The dark?
We all have fears, even the strongest of us. For young children who don't yet have the words to express their fears or the skills to overcome their fears, fears can be overwhelming. Add to that the fact that the world and all its sights and sounds are new to them, and fears become an understandable part of childhood. It is OK for your child to be afraid!
Instead your child needs you to acknowledge their fears, validate that it is OK to be afraid, and support them as they come up with ideas to confront their fears. They may need a transitional object, such as a blanket or a stuffed animal, to help them feel safe. Young children think in very concreate terms and cannot yet use abstract thought to comfort themselves. Transitional objects give them a concrete thing to hold and remind themselves that they are safe- in time they won't need it.
Or they may need a little magic. When my son was little, he believed I had magic because I had told him the story of How I Got My Magic a dozen times so we put a spell on our house that wouldn't let in monsters. I have made "magic wands" out of construction paper and crayons with kids and taught them the magic words of Iggly, Piggly, Ing, Go Away Scary Thing! Empower your children to find their own way to confront their fears, but give them the time to do it as well. Trust me- they will one day not call out to you because of their fears and you will know you did your job right!
Here are some books where the protagonist overcomes their fears! Use these as starting points for ideas on how to confront fears, and remind your child that they are brave even if they needed to jump in your bed. After all, they walked across the house in the dark which was a very brave thing to do! Even if your child does not yet have fears, read these books. You are proactively giving them the skills that they need to overcome the fears they will inevitably have.
Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger and Michael Hays- This is the classic story of a man and his son who are ostracized from their village, but come back to save it when the monster, Abiyoyo, arrives. In this wonderful book brains, instead of brawn, are used to overpower the monster. Here is the link for a recording of the story on Youtube so you can listen to Pete Seeger telling and singing it.
Brave Bear by Kathy Mallat- This is one my favorite books because it not only shows how we can overcome our fears but also teaches empathy. Bear finds a baby bird that cannot fly on the ground, and despite being afraid of heights returns the bird to its nest. A truly sweet book that is appropriate for toddlers.
Brave Irene by William Steig- Irene's mother is sick so Irene must deliver the dress her mother made for the duchess. She is scared, and it is hard, but she trudges through all the challenges and delivers the dress in time for the party. A great story that demonstrates how if we persevere through challenges and fears, we can succeed. After reading this book, remind your child of times when they made it through a difficult task or time. When my kids were little I would remind them how hard it was for them to learn to walk, that they fell down a bunch of times, but ultimately they did it and now they can run!
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley- This absolutely wonderful book introduces the face of the green monster one part at a time, then you tell each part to go away. A great book for helping toddlers and children learn to say go away to whatever scares them!
Jibberwillies at Night by Rachel Vail and Yumi Heo- A little girl is normally OK at night, but sometimes the jibberwillies come and scare her. She tries to tell them to go away, but they don't listen so she calls for her mother. Her mother helps her catch them in a bucket and throws them out the window. A wonderful acknowledgement of the girl's fears and a creative solution to making them go away, because sometimes words are not enough.
There's A Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer- Another classic that is a must have for every family. A little boy decides one night to confront his nightmare who lives in his closet. He turns off his light and waits. When the nightmare comes out, the little boy shoots him which causes his nightmare to cry. The little boy then takes his nightmare to bed with him so he won't cry anymore. This empowering book is a great conversation starter about how we react when we are angry or scared, and is very appropriate for toddlers.
When the Lion Roars by Robie H. Harris and Chris Raschka- We follow a small boy as he is confronted with scary things around him from thunderstorms to angry parents and learn how he makes it all go away by saying "Scary, go away." Those simple words turn things positive again! This empowering book gives your child the words to make the scary go away.
I hope you enjoy these books, and as always I welcome your comments and suggestions!
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