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Fears

I once saw a child who was terrified of the wind. His mother thought he had developed the fear from watching an episode of Winnie the Pooh in which all the characters were blown away in a windstorm. Although the characters all seemed to enjoy it, her son refused to go out on windy days after watching this episode, which meant that both mother and child were confined at home. He became so fearful that he would not even peek out the window for fear of seeing tree leaves fluttering in the wind. In fact, most of their conversations had narrowed down to meteorological matters.

All children experience fears as early as the toddler stage. Jimmy may worry about wild animals, supernatural creatures, the dark, or things that should not be scary, such as the wind. Despite your best intentions, if you try too hard to allay his fears, you could unwittingly validate them. For example, if you dive under the bed to prove there are no monsters, you only emphasize the reality of his emotions, and he’ll end up talking about monsters all day. Besides, you wouldn’t look too good if you did find a monster down there, would you? Kidding aside, fears are perfectly normal in young children. Treat these fears in a controlled, dismissive manner by offering short and rational reassurance so they don’t take on a huge significance in Jimmy’s life and yours as well. Don’t insist if Jimmy is not convinced by your explanations. He’ll eventually realize by himself that what he is scared of is not that scary.

To the best of your ability, limit Jimmy’s exposure to whatever he fears, but he’ll most likely have to face the object of that fear at some point. For example, if he’s afraid of the wind, like my little patient was, he’ll go outside eventually, and when he realizes that he isn’t being blown away, he’ll overcome his apprehension. If he doesn’t go out, he’s only delaying that moment of awareness. Happily, these normal childhood fears always diminish and disappear, even if the process takes many months.