Monday, September 20

How to address toddler fears

Q:  Seeking insight for my daughter whose 25 month old girl has some fears and we’re not sure how to address them. She was with cousins her age who went sledding.  She wasn’t afraid of the snow but freaked out when she went down a hill in a sled. She enjoys playing with her cousins but kept saying she wanted to be inside. Also, we farm and she is afraid of the tractors and combines even though her Papa and Grandma are riding in them. We do hope that she will out-grow them, but any advice on how to address these fears?  Thank you so much.

A:  Well, good news.  This all sounds normal!  Sometimes they have strong fears.  The sled is going to be fast - and if she feels out of control in it, then it's okay to let her pass on the ride.  And the tractor is BIG - think about how big and scary that is to a little person!  Just sit down on the ground and get a good look at it; from her perspective, it's a monster of a thing.  The only thing I can suggest is to try and desensitize her to them.  As far as the sled, just let her watch for now.  If she feels like it, let her ride with an adult.  Otherwise, as long as she sees the fun others are having, she'll come around when she's ready.  Until then, if she wants to go inside, let her.  She may feel safer watching from inside.

With the tractor and combine, just let her watch as well.  You can possibly tie some balloons to it - or if she is COMPLETELY okay with it, let a stuffed animal or doll "ride" with an adult.  (Make sure she is okay, though - if she starts to cry when the toy goes riding off, stop and give it back or it will do more damage than good.)  Start with the toy just sitting or "playing" on it but make sure the engine is OFF - it is loud and scary!!  You can have her pat the wheel, or lift her up to put the toy on it - just for a few minutes.  Let her see that her doll is okay.  From there, just play around it here and there, and work up to being around it with the engine on.  Make sure you don't make a big deal out of her getting over the fear - just act like you could care less if she likes it or not.  When she starts to act okay with it, THEN you can ask if the doll/animal "wants" a ride.  But make sure and stop/give it back if she gets upset, and don't let someone take off with the toy for an hour!  (not good!)

She is still very young and just learning how to venture into the big, bad world.  Let her gain some confidence and she will be just fine!  She needs to start associating the equipment with good/happy/fun - once she gets enough of that association, she should overcome the fear.   
Yours Truly,

Michelle Smith, M.S., SLP

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