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From Halloween to Hurricane Sandy, How We Help Kids Cope with Fear

This week, we talk about how we help our kids deal with the things that scare them.

Halloween has come and gone, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is all over the media, and our kids have spent the past week bombarded by some pretty confusing and even scary things.

So, we’ve been wondering how to help our kids make sense of it all without feeling scared.

Bethany:

My daughter is almost 4 and is very sensitive to the world around her. She doesn’t like sudden loud noises, strangers, scary halloween decorations and costumes, and lots of other things. She has never seen a movie all the way through because inevitably there is a “scary” part (even kids’ movies are full of parents dying, kids getting lost, or evil queens). She gets scared when things are unfamiliar to her or she’s confused. I know this is all pretty normal, but I want to help her to not feel so scared.

Halloween was really difficult for her this year. The decorations everywhere really freaked her out, and the costumes were especially confusing for her. She doesn’t understand and so her first reaction is to be scared.

When trick-or-treaters came to the door, she happily helped me hand out candy and even shouted, “Happy Trick-or-Treat!” to them. But some of the costumes really scared her. She was also troubled by the constant flow of people coming to our door and then leaving. That night she had lots of nightmares and I had to reassure her that there were no more people outside.

She has also seen the hurricane coverage on the news and she doesn’t know what to make of it. I try to change the channel when she’s around, but sometimes she still catches pieces of it. She saw one woman crying with her two small children and she got very upset at that. I had to reassure her that they would be ok and people were coming to help them (I can only hope that was true!). But, she had a nightmare that night too.

She kept saying, “The Mommy was scared! The Mommy was crying!”

It really broke my heart. She cares so much about the world around her, that sometimes it’s just too much for her to take.

I myself was a sensitive child, but I also learned my own ways of coping and dealing with my fears. I don’t want to put my fears onto her, so I put on a brave face and try my best to reassure her when she’s upset or confused. This is pretty difficult for me though since I have several irrational fears and even panic attacks sometimes. I’m very conscientious about my kids though.

I think it’s ok for them to see that I’m human and have some things that worry and even scare me, but  I don’t want them to see Mommy having a panic attack over something like going to the dentist. It’s another of many tricky situations as a parent I suppose, and I can only hope I’m doing the right thing.

Nicole:

My daughter is incredibly outgoing. She has a very boisterous personality and isn’t afraid of much. Last year, she LOVED Halloween, but I wasn’t sure how much she would remember. When Halloween decorations started going up, she was SO excited. We drove around looking for decorations and listened to Halloween music and she relished in it. Halloween came, and I didn’t really consider things like costumes or decorations scaring her, and they really didn’t. She ran around like a maniac collecting goodies and trick or treats and had an amazing time. I count myself very lucky because I know how easily children her age could be scared by things like that, and with good reason! If they’re not familiar with it, it can be very scary!

There are times when she gets overwhelmed and tends to shut down. For instance, her school held a Halloween carnival last weekend and while she was having a great time, she did need to take some time to sit alone and relax. When she has these moments, I let her do what she needs to do to make herself comfortable. I don’t see the need in forcing her to engage in activity when she’s feeling overwhelmed. I know I don’t like that feeling and sometimes I just need a moment to take it all in, and so does she!

My husband’s family lives on the Long Island Sound. They were evacuated by the army before Hurricane Sandy and there was a very strong chance they were going to lose their home (they were very lucky, they did not lose their home, however many people on their street did). My husband was glued to the local Long Island news on his laptop and we did discuss it in front of the kids as we were both very concerned, but Evie didn’t really pick up on that.

There were times where she saw pictures and would ask what was happening, and we were honest with her but she didn’t seem too concerned by any of it. But what happens when she’s older and she recognizes scary things on the news? I guess I’m not really sure. Acknowledging that it’s ok to be afraid but helping her understand that Mommy and Daddy will always be there to help her.

Then there is me. I am probably one of the biggest pansies you’ve ever encountered. While physical pain does not affect me much, creepy things do! I can’t watch scary movies, I don’t like heights, I REALLY don’t like small spaces, and while I’m not a huge fan of spiders, I tend to just catch them and let them go. I definitely don’t want to pass these fears on to my kids. I know they will discover what scares them, but I want THEM to determine what scares them, not me. They have enough on their ever expanding little minds, they don’t need Mommy’s fears bouncing around in there too!

Our children are going to encounter things that frighten them, and it’s our job as parents to help them understand it’s ok to be afraid but that we’ll always be there to help them through those emotions!

You can also check out the Campbell Patch Mom Squad on Facebook! We share our articles, community events, thoughts on parenting, parent related current events, and more. We also welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions anytime!

How have you helped your kids understand all the confusing and even scary things around them lately? We’d love to hear from you all! Please share with us in the comments below.

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