Dear Miss Faith, My question is about my 23 month old and how lately she seems to be spooked by a lot of different things. We have recently welcomed a new baby to the house, but overall she’s really done well with the baby. So I’m not sure if this recent behaviour is because of our 3 month olds arrival, an age related thing or if its just her. Things that make noise seem the worst, people dressed up as big shapes or even cartoon characters, dogs (even though we have a large dog who she is fine with) all seem to scare her, and she will start shaking her head saying no no no and then cling to me and start crying. Sometimes she clings on to me so hard, she just seems so scared. Its strange a lot of these things such as noises and animals she has grown up with and has always been fine with until recently. I’m not sure how to help her get through this.
Thanks for writing! That sounds like a really hard situation, for you and for your little girl! Kids often go through a very clingy stage around 19-23 months, as they go through a spiritual awakening. See an article that I wrote to another mom about her little girl being suddenly very “shy” around this age:/2011/05/shy-toddlers/
The question for your daughter is, how can you let her know that things might not actually be as scary as they feel. I think that sometimes when we reassure them and say, “It’s OK, it’s OK, I won’t let anything hurt you,” it makes them feel even more powerless, like there’s something really dangerous. On the other hand, trying to tell them that there’s nothing to be scared of often feels invalidating.
I think one of the ways we can help kids normalize things is to ‘play’ them. In order for her to feel big and strong, why don’t you play that YOU’RE scared of things, and go to HER for comfort. Ham it up and make it funny. First be scared of things that she’s not scared of, then be scared of things that she’s a little bit scared of. She may find that being able to be the strong one will help her.
Another thing you can do is sing. I do this with kids all the time, when they’re scared of bugs, of thunder, of the wind, of whatever. One woman observed me and she said, “It’s like you’re saying, ‘that’s so normal, there’s even a song about it!'” For bugs I’ll sing ‘the ants go marching one by one,’ for wind I’ll say, “Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. But when the leaves are trembling, the wind is passing by.” Etc. Etc. If a loud noise happens that startles the kids, sometimes we’ll make loud noises of our own: we’ll jump and stomp as loud as we can, and try and decide if that’s louder than the sound we heard that scared us.
And finally, you can tell a story about how when you were a little girl, you were really scared of the vacuum, and every time your mom turned it on, you’d cry and cry (rub your eyes, “Boo-hoo-hoo, boo-hoo-hoo”). Each time your mother would say, “There’s nothing to be scared of! Will you push it with me?” and you was say “No, no, no!” (shake your head emphatically). Then, the next day my mom would turn it on again. (repeat the sequence.) Then finally one day she turned it on and you reached out and touched it with one finger (reach out and touch something, then pull your hand back really fast). It was still loud, but nothing happened! The next day, you touched it with two fingers! It was still loud, but nothing happened. The third day, your mother turned it on and you helped her push it through the whole house. It was still loud, but you weren’t scared at all. And from that day forward, even though the vacuum was still loud, you didn’t cry anymore.
A story like this is good because it lets her know that you understand, and it shows her how she might progress through this fear. And of course, give her lots of love and attention when she’s NOT being scared, as well. Notice when she’s brave, when you’re being brave, try out things that might be scary together and then be excited when you’re not scared, etc.
Warmly, ~Miss Faith
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