What’s going on for baby?
Young children may feel stress as a result of fear and other unpleasant emotional experiences. When this happens too often, it can have a negative effect on their brain development. A child’s stress can also result in a range of behaviours that upset or irritate their parents.
At this age children may begin to experience fears that haven’t been evident before. Parents may struggle with this new stage, not understanding why their child is suddenly afraid of something that didn’t use to trouble them.
Fears can be prompted by a child’s developing memory skills, which mean they are now more able to recall past events or experiences. Their increasing intellectual awareness and ability to understand more of what is said, both to them directly and around them, can also lead to fear.
A child may also experience fear of the ‘unknown’ as they don’t yet understand many of the things in their world.
How can parents and whānau help?
- Provide reassurance when their child is upset, until they have returned to a calm state.
- Repair any ‘rupture’ when parent and child have been dealing with anger and upset feelings. This process of ‘kissing and making up’ after an emotional upset helps a child to build resilience. Resilience is a protective factor which helps a child to face and deal with emotional challenges in the future.
- Understand it’s normal for children of this age to find some things frightening — this can include dogs, the dark, water going down the plughole, new situations, new people, going to the doctor, or having a haircut.
- Avoid telling the child they are being silly and acknowledge that their fears are real for them.
Support the child through the situation that frightens them, then talk about it afterwards, explaining the scary thing in simple terms.