Helping Preschoolers Overcome Fear

 “Do not be afraid. God is with you wherever you go” (see Josh. 1:9).

October is a month in which scary images have become the norm. We see scary jack-o-lanterns and skeletons and commercials for horror houses. As adults, we have seen these images so often that they may not even cause us to take a second glance. But for children, this season can bring out many fears.

From about the age of 2, children begin to develop the ability to form mental images. And, while having a great imagination can lead to all kinds of fun play, a great imagination can also lead to all kinds of fears. Never belittle or ridicule a preschooler’s fears. Do not make light of children’s fears. Be grateful that they trust you enough to share those fears. When they tell you they are afraid, take their fears seriously and be proactive in helping them to deal with the fears.

Here are a few suggestions for helping preschoolers overcome fear:

  1. Think through times that your preschooler experiences fear and make a plan for those times. For example, make bedtime as fear free as possible. Use night lights and allow soft, gentle music to help your preschooler's thoughts settle as he goes to sleep.
  2. Give your preschooler art supplies to draw what makes her afraid. This may give you new insight into her fears. Ask her to tell you about what she’s drawn. Speak to her gently and reassuringly as she verbalizes what she has drawn.
  3. If a child tells you that he is afraid of something you cannot see, get down on his level to see the world from his perspective. Literally, get eye level with him. Many years ago my son began crying out from his bed that there was a big monkey in the room. Recognizing that he was truly terrified, I knelt down next his bed. From his eye level, the night light was casting a shadow, his shadow, on the ceiling. The shadow looked just like a huge monkey! After moving the night light, the shadow went away, and my Sam was happy to stay in his room.
  4. Give your preschooler a security object. Some preschoolers are able to soothe themselves by hugging stuffed animals. Others enjoy the comfort of a favorite blanket.
  5. Give your children clear, simple explanations to ease their fears. If a preschooler is afraid of getting lost in a store, talk about how holding hands with you will prevent him from getting lost. Or, if he is afraid of the doctor, talk about how going to the doctor will make him well so that he can play again.
  6. Pray over your preschooler. Let her hear you thanking God for always being with her. Just hearing you ask God to protect her and to care for her will help ease some fears.
  7. The book Sometimes I Am Afraid will provide an avenue for discussing a number of fears with preschoolers. As you picture-read the book, talk to your preschooler about each scenario. Talking about common fears as you read the book will give your preschoolers some tools to use for moments that they actually experience fear.

Let your preschooler know that everyone has fears, and thank her for telling you about her fears. Reassure her that you will take care her, and that God is always with her.

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