My 4 year old child has developed a fear of the wind. It is to the point where she won’t go outside, if I get her outside and the wind blows she begins to shake, cry and scream. She runs back in the house, I have two younger children who want to be outside. I don’t feel comfortable having her in by herself so I bring the other two inside. I am also afraid that the 3 and 1 year old will develop the same fear by watching their sister. I feel so helpless, I can’t ease her fear! Please help.
I want you to know that I understand how you are feeling and to tell you that children’s fears are normal. One of the hardest things for parents is when our children have illogical fears and that anything we say doesn’t seem to help them. With that said, a little fear is good, fear can stop a child from jumping head first into a dangerous situation. Some common fears that children experience are fear of strangers, the dark, loud noises at night, people in masks, monsters, insects and large dogs. Preschoolers imaginations are developing which can lead to fears, they are introduced to new experiences that bring fears of the unexpected, they also have real emotions but have a difficult time determining that the experiences that goes with them isn’t real.
Here are some signs that a child is anxious or afraid…
• Becoming clingy, impulsive and/or unfocussed.
• Nervous movements, such as twitches, hand wringing or blinking eyes.
• Problems getting to sleep and/or staying asleep.
• Sweaty hands
• Accelerated heart rates and breathing
It is important to validate your child’s fears, even if those fears seem trivial. It may seem like you will make the fear worse by doing this. It will actually help your child process the emotion and move away from it.
Suggestions for helping your child work through their fear.
• Recognize that the fear is real and talk to them about it. Words can take some of the power out of the bad feeling. If you talk about it, it can become less powerful.
• Teach kids how to rate fear on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest.
• Teach coping strategies
• Have them use you as "home base," your child can venture out toward the feared object, and then return to you for safety before trying again.
• Demonstrate that you are not afraid, have them look into your eyes.
• Teach them positive self-talk, such as “I can do this." and "I will be Okay.”
• Give physical comfort such as hugs, rocking them back and forth, patting their backs, etc.
• Approach the fears in small steps.
• Practice coping responses such as a stuffed animal, through drawing or role playing
• Reward efforts – big or small.
• Teach breathing techniques to your child, for example…
Things not to do…
• Don’t try to talk your child out of the fear.
• Never make your child feel ashamed or silly as a way of forcing your child to overcome a fear.
• Don't cater to fears. If your child doesn't like dogs, don't cross the street deliberately to avoid one. This will just strengthen the fear and to avoid it.
*****If the fear persists or worsens consult your child’s pediatrician.