No You Won't Have Surgery: Dealing with Your Preschooler's Irrational Fear and Anxiety

 If your child is afraid and anxious about thunderstorms and tornadoes, here is what you DO NOT DO:  Do not tell her if a tornado is coming it can sound like a train engine. This will not be soothing to a preschooler when you live half a block from  busy train tracks.  #momfail  If your preschooler talks about fears and anxiety a bit too much around the four year old mark, you are not alone.  Apparently it is normal.  Not fun, but normal.

Is Your Toddler Going to Get Gallbladder Open Heart Surgery Loose Tooth Pinkeye?   My sweet and thoughtful four year old might.  Or so she fears.  Libby has always been a deep thinker.  I still chuckle over a scene in a movie where the female is scantily clad and making unwanted advances.  The man tries to cover her saying, "You're going to catch cold!"  
An hour later Libby thoughtfully asks, "Was that lady really cold Mama?" She knew there was some kind of funny business going on , she just needed to think it over awhile.

She has been thinking a lot over lately.  She is like a 63 year old hypochondriac.  A neighbors' babysitting charge has pinkeye, Libby fears she may get it and wants to know about it.  She begins washing her hands often.  Not compulsively but...often.  Her older sister is eager for her first loose tooth to show up, so Libby is brought to tears feeling her teeth will fall out.  We met a 6 month old baby girl at Panera yesterday and the mother proudly declared "She had open heart surgery a month ago!"  Guess who fears surgery herself now.

My husband and I got so tired of her reporting every little bump and ding he joked about starting a journal and entering the date and time of each malady she expressed:

8/10/15 10:15am bumped elbow
8/10/15 10:20am worried about earrings infected
8/10/15 11:00am bumped knee on stuffed animal
8/10/15 11:03am worries she has pinkeye
8/10/15 12:45  smells Ebola virus 

As a somewhat impatient mama, my first reaction is to dismiss Libby's irrational fears. In a moment of heroic and unprecedented parental awesomeness, I do not do this.  I validate how she is feeling and try to talk openly about whatever the fearsome topic is that day.  I reassure her without putting too much emphasis on the topic of fear that moment.

We found a great book a few years ago for our other daughter Portia called "Wince the Monster of Worry" and talking about the Worry Bug and Wince By Andi Green Green has given her a tangible reference and way to reduce her worries.   ( I guess we are going to have to dig the stuffed Wince out of the DONATE bag one more time.)

I found this post on BabyCenter with great tips on how to handle anxiety in preschoolers.  It tells me I am doing it right, validating, honestly explaining, and listening to my daughter's thoughts.  I disagree with their suggestion of a "Lovey", however.  Physical dependance on an item could wreak havoc later (I'm looking at you, coffeechocolatredlipstick) For us we rely on a combination of faith and knowledge to help us with our preschooler's fear and anxiety! I've watched too many parents buy sixteen of the same toy and cycle them in and out to create equal wear/smell/appearance so they are not stuck with the one "Lovey" getting lost at a crucial time.  Just my thoughts,but I am certainly not Mother of the Year.  

Libby's father is also a deep thinker and worrier, so I know this might not be the last time she expresses fears that worry her sweet small heart.   We just handle each instance as best we can, with love and wine. (For us, not for her.)

Has your child had any issues with fear and anxiety?  What did you do that worked well?

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