Humans, I’ve decided, are born with the ability to worry. Worry isn’t a behavior that needs to be learned. Worry is an innate ability of human beings. In a sense, worry is a self-preservation factor; if we didn’t worry about being run over by a car, we wouldn’t look both ways before crossing a street. There is, however, a big difference between prudent caution and unreasonable fear.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to help soothe the fears of our children. We want them to be prudently cautious and aware that dangers exist, but we don’t want them to be paralyzed with fear. Hitting that happy medium between teaching our children to be careful without being fearful requires patient consistency and it starts at birth.
With infants, we can comfort them easily by holding and feeding them. As those infants become toddlers, we can comfort them by touching them, talking to them, and reading to them. As that toddler gets to the preschool age, he is able to begin to express his fears and worries in words. When a child voices his worry, the parent needs to address that worry without laughing at or ridiculing the child. The worry is real, and he’s looking to you to relieve that worry.
Several books can help you deal with the fears and worries of your preschool-age child. Here are two of the very best:
1. “The Little House,” by Virginia Lee Burton: A little house in the country is taken over by a growing city. Eventually though, the little house is able to return to where it belongs. The underlying theme is that changes can be scary, but eventually life returns to normal.
2. “Outside over There,” by Maurice Sendak: This book explores children’s inner fears and worries. A brave girl saves her younger brother from goblins. This is a story of a strong, resourceful child using her creativity to confront and overcome evil.