Top 7 Toddler Fears
It can be really frustrating and unnerving to see your toddler shrink in fear from the puppy next door or burst into tears as you head out the door. Read on for more info on common fears and how to help your child.
Why kids fear it: At this age, toddlers begin to understand when something is about to happen out of their usual routine—even if they’re not sure what it is. Seemingly normal experiences for grownups (getting a haircut, seeing a costumed character at the mall, meeting a neighbor’s new puppy) can be confusing and scary to toddlers and result in tears.
Learn how to help toddlers handle scary new experiences.
Why kids fear it: Yikes! Noises that are benign for adults can sure be startling to toddlers: We know that a smoke detector’s wail will eventually stop, but a loud noise like that could mean anything to a young child. Toddlers don’t yet have a full grasp on cause and effect, so loud noises may seem random and like possible signals of danger. Since toddlers have not yet mastered regulating big feelings, a startle can lead to fear and tears.
See how to handle toddlers’ fears of loud noises.
Getting Hurt (Ouch!)
Why kids fear it: Toddlers aren’t yet sure that a bump or bruise won’t lead to a bigger injury (or loss of body part!). In the moment, they may be terrified: They haven’t yet learned that they will eventually be OK, but just that it hurts really bad right now.
Separating from You
Why kids fear it: Your child is becoming more aware of different people and how big (and sometimes scary) the world can be. She feels more secure in her environment when you are there. She also now understands that you and she are separate people and is just mastering the knowledge that when you leave you will come back. Learn how to help with separation anxiety, and get 10 simple solutions.
Why kids fear it: The friendly, wiggly lab next door may not incite fear in grownups but could bring tears to your toddler. Dogs are very big to pint-size toddlers, and cognitively toddlers have no basis for understanding dogs’ unpredictable movements. Plus, loud barking can startle your little one! Here’s how to handle your toddler’s fear of dogs.
Why kids fear it: Young toddlers cannot yet fully understand the relativity of size. So kids under 2 see no reason why if the water can go down the drain, their own arms, fingers, toes, and belly can’t follow! Plus, the loud gurgling sound can be scary and highlight the disappearance of all of that water and potentially themselves next. How to help your toddler conquer fears of drains.
Why kids fear it: Young toddlers look to their parents for signals of what is dangerous in their environment. Grownup’s messages of fear help them determine what to avoid and what is safe. You may think your child doesn’t notice when you jump away from that hairy spider, but she sure is paying attention. Here’s how not to pass along your fear to your child.
Are Fears OK to Have?
The truth is, fear and anxiety are normal parts of growing up and are healthy signals for children in learning whether something is safe or dangerous in their environment. (Think about how helpful fear is to a gazelle!) Of course, if you have concerns that your toddler’s fears are too big or get in the way of everyday life, consult your child’s pediatrician.
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