Fear of your toddler

I hear feet dribble on the landing and a little later a sleep drunk Tijn is on my bed.
"Mom, I can not sleep," he says with a shaky voice.
I am instantly wide awake, I keep the duvet and gesture that he can come to lie with me. "Why can not you sleep, honey?" I whisper.
"There's a ghost in my room."
O help, there we go again: game time.
"And what does that ghost do?" I ask and gently brush his belly.
Well do you know ...? " Tijn begins. I hear from the strength in his voice that he feels safe again in my arms. He's staring at me. "
Then it is a stinging ghost. They are sweet. Shall we have a look together? "
I turn on the big light in Tijn's room and he comes after me with a lot of trouble.
"There he was," Tijn points out with conviction to his chair, where only some crumpled clothes are lying on.
'Yes, that is a very good ghost spot.' I play the game. Finally, this is essential for Tijn. I take his hand and lead him to his bed. I think he was curious about how you sleep. And I also think that the ghost has long since gone away; they do not like light. Come on, then I'll put you under. Shall we light the small light? "
Tijn nods and puts his thumbs in his mouth. I see how his eyelids become heavy. I kiss him and whisper in his ear: Good night, honey. No more dreams of ghosts, you know. "
With a sigh I slide back into my own bed. What must that fear be annoying for him? I hope this phase will soon pass ... "

Where does fear come from?

We all know the concept of 'healthy tension', but when stress is not properly absorbed, fears can arise.
Fear is a primary reaction to threat or danger, and fear is actually functional: it makes you cautious. Fear is an emotion that gives a strong physical response. You startle or shrink, you are tense, your heartbeat accelerates, hormones vomit through your body, you feel unsafe and uncomfortable.

Miserable experience

Children experience the same physical reaction, but because they can not reason it out, it will be a nasty experience.
In your mind, your child will experience the cause of his fear over and over again and try with all his might to avoid this feeling: from now on he will automatically walk around for every dog, or he refuses to go to bed ...
Fear of toddlers can arise from things that are beyond their influence or understanding, it can be caused by an unpleasant or painful experience, but fear can also arise from the magical fantasy of your toddler ...

Fear of outside things

It is quite understandable that a young toddler is afraid of things that go outside him such as loud noises, thunderstorms, traffic, a super slide and so on. He has just realized that he can influence certain things but he does not really understand it. Things that he scares or that he can not understand will make him anxious.
It is sometimes difficult to explain to a toddler about normal things. A clash of clouds is a meager explanation for a severe thunderstorm with crackling flashes of light. And a jet fighter that comes across terrifyingly low is often gone before you can designate him ...

Name and explain

Still, naming the fear of your toddler and a brief explanation is the best method: I see that you are startled. What a noise! A jet fighter is a super fast aircraft. He flies so hard that you can not see him just hear. Crazy, huh?'
As your young toddler gets more experience with these new impressions, he will start recognizing them. His fear will then pass and be limited to a slight shock reaction or tension.

Fear as a result of a traumatic experience

It may be that your toddler has a traumatic experience that makes him anxious from that moment on: a sudden hospitalization, a wasp bite, a confrontation with a fake dog ...
Your child's behavior will be aimed at preventing a repetition of this unpleasant experience. But sometimes this is impossible. An inspection visit to the hospital is necessary, in the summer there are wasps and you can not walk around every dog ​​...

Do not force anything

You can pet him, you know. He does nothing. "Such an empty comment will not help your child overcome his fear of dogs. It will only press him to do something against his will.
Willfully force the fear of your child has the opposite effect. What can you do? Talk to your child about his unpleasant experience. Let him explain in his own words exactly what makes him so frightened. Confirm what he says: "Yes indeed, the doctor has given you an annoying jab." And tell him why you think he is afraid. Only when you know his specific fear can you explain to him why he feels that fear or does not need to feel it anymore. Explain in simple terms why a puncture does very well, why a wasp stings, why a dog does not always want to play ...
Offer your child protection and comfort and make this tangible with a soft toy or cloth that he can take as a guide.

Fear of magical fantasy

The magical thinking of a toddler is often endearing, but sometimes also quite frustrating. If your child is convinced that there are ghosts coming out of his bed as soon as you leave the room, see him get asleep ...
Ghosts, witches, creeps, monsters, space creatures and other vague notions - even Santa Claus and Santa Claus - are beyond your companions. The magical fantasy of your toddler makes overtime and this can be overwhelming. Dreumessen can not distinguish between reality and fantasy and this makes them crazy about fairy tales and fantasy stories: everything is possible! But do not use these stories before bedtime, because they only make the unrest in your toddler's head bigger. A bulging curtain is suddenly a ghost, the clothes on a chair turn into a mean witch and if you're not sweet, Sinterklaas takes you to Spain ... and what the hell is Spain ...?!

Equally real

For your child these fantasy beings are all as real as grandpa or the neighbor; saying that they do not exist. What do you have to do?
Follow your toddler in his fantasy. Confirm his fear: Mommy knows you're afraid of ghosts. "Search for the ghost together, drive him away with a big broom and leave a light on: Because ghosts hate light."


A witch is put out of the open window with a seesaw: I'll never show you here again, ugly witch! "And creeps are resolutely sent down: Dad has milk and cookies for you, but you can no longer stay with Tijn in the room come! Vort, you creeps, down! "Auxiliary troops can also be deployed: Tijn is not afraid of your stupid monsters, because his strong Bear Bas protects him here."
Repeat this ritual for a few days and then let your child chase away the culprit (s) yourself. In this way he learns that he has power and control over his own imagination.
Perhaps this seems an unusual approach, but when you follow your child in his imagination you reach three things: he gets the feeling that you believe him, he feels strengthened and he is reassured.

That's part of it

Fear of ghosts, dogs, the dark, Sinterklaas, separation anxiety ... it all belongs in this toddler phase.
A child of 1.5 - 2 years old is going to realize that certain things happen because he wants to or causes himself: when I press the button the television goes on, when I climb a chair I can go to the cookies ... But there are also things that fall outside his sphere of influence - lightning and thunder, loud noises, pain - and therefore frightening.
A visit to the doctor for a nasty puncture, or a confrontation with a biting dog can be a traumatic experience for your child. It is quite normal that a repetition of a similar situation - an innocent visit to the clinic, a meeting with a sweet dog - will inspire fear in your child.

Magical fantasy

Children aged 3 or older also have a magical fantasy. They give themselves and others powers that can lead to great fantasies: 'when the bath is emptying I am sucked in', or 'grandpa is dead because I've done ugly'. Ghosts, monsters, space creatures and other vague notions - even Sinterklaas and Santa Claus - are beyond the grasp of your toddler and can be frightening in combination with his magical fantasy.

Depression anxiety

Moreover, it is not uncommon that in this phase also abandonment or separation anxiety re-emerges.
When your child gets a better understanding of the big world and how things function, his fear of all these elusive things is reduced. Unfortunately, new fears often arise in this phase: for school, performance and social contacts ...

Abandonment or separation anxiety

Your toddler is increasingly discovering the wide world and his freedom of movement towards you is getting bigger and bigger. The further he gets away from his familiar environment, the stronger his impulse to return to you as his safe beacon.

Not too much attention

Do not give too much space or attention to this separation anxiety. Take your toddler with you, comfort him and make clear agreements: about where you will be when he is playing and when you pick him up again. If you are going to play with Auntie Marjolein, I will go shopping. If you have your milk, I'll get you again. "
It is heartbreaking to leave your child in tears ... but eventually your child will become familiar with this new situation again. As your child becomes more self-reliant and can verbally express himself better, this form of anxiety decreases.

Signals of fear in toddlers

  • difficulty falling asleep, often coming out of bed, dreaming, waking up at night
    decline in cleanliness
  • change in behavior: very busy or very quiet; do a tough job or hang out the clown
    exaggerated affectionate, clinging, strangling, screaming
  • be quiet and withdrawn, have no appetite, complain of abdominal pain or headaches
    avoidance behavior
  • cry when he sees the bag in front of the game room or school
  • seek protection from you

What can you do to help your toddler with his fear?

  • explain why something happens
  • confirm his fear: I know you are afraid. "
  • let your child express his fear as well as possible
  • confirm this by saying why you think he is afraid: I understand that you are afraid of ... because ... "
  • give your child the feeling that you believe him, strengthen him, give him confidence
  • follow him in his fantasy: chase away the ghost, put a protective knight in front of the door
    use booklets or personal experiences to explain
  • offers safety, a (temporary) hug or other form of comfort (light on)
    do not force anything; do not say that there is nothing
  • make clear agreements on separation anxiety, involve the leader in this
    do not project your own fears on your child

If it is not a phase ...

Most fears of dreum lessons are gradually passing, it is only a phase they are going through. As they get older, the dividing line between reality and fantasy becomes clearer. Their magical thinking becomes logical thinking (cause -> consequence) and they gain more and more insight into the 'big world'. Moreover, their self-reliance increases and they can express themselves verbally better.
It may be that the specific fear of your child takes great forms. Your child can also have such a traumatic experience that it affects his functioning. In these cases, we advise you to contact your doctor or the clinic.

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