We have reached, it seems, the age of fears with Boy-o. He came home from school just devastated because he'd been (accidentally) terrified by his beloved teacher at gym-time (she was just as devastated) during an innocuous game that the class plays together quite often. The next day, he didn't want to go to school (a first). And the following day, a friendly wave from a librarian had him wanting to leave. And then there's the dark. Dragons. Crocodiles. Fires. Monsters. Being alone. Worries about the safety of characters in books that leave him in a puddle of tears. Suddenly - the whole world seems to have jumped out at Boy-o, all big and real and scary.
Developmentally, this seems to be right on track... after consulting my developmental experts (and yes, that's Facebook folks), my friends' kids of comparable ages all seem to be experiencing these same onslaught of fears. And it does make sense. Firstly - near four year olds are becoming much more aware of the big world around them. Secondly - the big world around them is, in actuality, a scary place with scary stuff and scary happenings. We parents spend so much time trying to keep our babes in a world-sheltering bubble for as long as we possibly can, so I'm feeling a bit sad that the world has started poke holes in that carefully constructed childhood security.
So then, what to do to help Boy-o live in a real world with real fears?
- Talking about fears as they arise, encouraging him to name the fears, exploring how everyone has fears, that it's natural and normal, etc.
- Avoiding the news, or L. talking about her work in front of the kids (which we're pretty careful about anyways).
- Reading books about fears and ways that people deal with them (I'm planning another blog just devoted to kid's books on this subject matter).
- Using certain tools to help ease fears or worries - worry dolls for nighttime worries, getting a dreamcatcher for nightmares, favourite snugglies, night-lights, etc.
- Avoiding the concept of bravery as being fearless, and exploring the idea that bravery is actually doing something that you know is actually right for you (like going to school as opposed to say, jumping off the roof with a pillow case) even if you're afraid, and bravery is asking for help when you are afraid.
- Making clear distinctions between what is real and what is imaginary. Though it's been fun to explore ideas like monsters and fire-breathing dragons in books, these ideas are clearly fear-producing now. SO - we've had to begin to make clear the fact that dragons and monsters and aliens only live in our imaginations.