fear of fears

Nothing to Fear from Your Baby’s Fears

Dear Mr. Dad: My 15-month-old baby is suddenly afraid of everything—including a lot of things he wasn’t afraid of just a few weeks ago. He’s scared the bathtub, getting his hair cut, the vacuum cleaner, the dark, and even our dog (the same dog that he actually rode on recently. What’s going on and what can we do to help our son?

A: Don’t panic. A lot of babies start off pretty fearless, but as they gradually learn that they aren’t the center of the Universe and that they don’t have control everything in the world (a realization that’s just now beginning to solidify), the world seems a lot scarier than it used to.

The first thing to do is to try to figure out what’s got your son so spooked. The bathtub, for example, might bring up fears of being washed down the drain (if water and soap suds go down the drain, hair can go down too, and if hair does, why not the whole body?) or of the hot water, the noise of the water coming out of the faucet, or of getting something in his eyes (after all, if you can’t see the world, you can’t control it, right?). The vacuum can bring up fears of being sucked up just like the dirt; the dark brings up fears of the unknown, of monsters, of not being in control, and that loved ones (and things) won’t be there when the lights come on; and in your child’s mind, a dog who’s big enough to ride is big enough to swallow him.

The solution is to take things very slowly and avoid pushing your child too quickly. You might, for example, take baths with your son, which would show him that you’re too big to go down the drain. Keep soap suds (even the no-more-tears kind) away from your baby’s face and minimize splashing. If your baby will allow you, have one of his stuffed animals ride on the vacuum to show him that it’s not dangerous. You could write a sign warning monsters that there’s a monster-eating child in the room. You get the point.

But whatever you do, pay close attention to how you talk with your child about his fears. The words you use can have a huge influence on how he deals with scary situations. Here’s how you can help:

Read the rest of this story on Armin’s blog.

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, mrdad.com. You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top