Two-year-olds are experiencing rapid development as they learn language skills and begin to exert their independence. All of these changes can bring with them the development of new fears, as well, such as being afraid of the dark or being anxious around new people. You can help your child learn how to overcome these fears, which will help him feel more confident and to learn the skills to manage fears in the future.
Many 2-year-olds experience the same fears as their peers thanks to developmental changes. According to Purdue University Extension, some common fears that your 2-year-old might have include loud noises, strangers, separation from parents, water, and bath time. WebMD notes that fear of the dark also develops around this age. Sometimes, a 2-year-old's fears might be specific to him. According to BabyCenter.com, some examples include fear of bugs, dogs, and even the vacuum cleaner.
Reasons for Fears
A key developmental change in toddlers that can lead to the development of fears is engagement in pretend play. According to Zero to Three, a site sponsored by the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, toddlers are learning to exercise their imaginations, but they are not yet able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Therefore, they might think that the dragon they saw in a movie is real and could come after them. According to Scholastic.com, toddlers might also develop fears because of their limited understanding of cause and effect. They might see water going down the drain in the bath tub and then fear that they could also be sucked down the drain.
Helping Children with Their Fears
Parents can use a number of strategies to help their 2-year-olds overcome their fears. According to AskDrSears, parents should begin by acknowledging their children's fears, rather than dismissing or ignoring them. Avoid phrases such as "Don't be a baby." Ignoring or dismissing fears won't make them go away -- it will just make your child not want to talk to you about them. Instead, ask your child to talk to you about what he's thinking and feeling. The Purdue University Extension recommends helping children learn about the things that scare them. Therefore, if your child is afraid of being sucked down the drain at bath time, you can talk about why they can't happen and teach him about how the drain works. Play can be a helpful way to work through what kids are feeling and to help them know they are not crippled by their fears.
Getting Professional Help
If your child's fears persist despite your support, or if the fears are causing serious disruptions to your child's development or happiness, there might be a larger issue that needs to be addressed. Talk with your pediatrician to have your child evaluated and find out whether a medical or behavioral issue that is driving the fear. Your pediatrician might refer you to a counselor or a behavioral specialist.