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How to handle fear?

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#1 niggles

Posted 24 January 2013 - 03:08 PM

For the last few weeks my 4.5 year old daughter has developed an intense fear of being alone. She won't go to the toilet alone, she won't stay in a room alone and follows me around the house and she won't fall asleep alone or stay in her bed overnight. Her fear is genuine, and even interupts things she would normally love. For example, she won't go and get a toy she desperately wants to play with unless I go with her to get it, even if it means interupting her game indefinitely until I can help her out. She can be busily and happily doing something and if I leave the room then after a few minutes, or sometimes immediately, she will come and find me. It's the same when she is with her aunt, or her grandparents and when her friends are here.

It would seem the source of the issue is that she watched an episode of My Little Pony that has frightened her. Stupidly a week later she was spending the day with her older cousins and I forgot to mention the issue to my sister so they all watched a movie together that was really way too scary for her and has made things much worse. I'm absolutely kicking myself about this. That movie frightened me when I watched it the first time and I was 10 years old at the time!

I've just been running with it and that's helped a little because she spends less time working herself up about it than when it first started happening. She's also noticing less when I've left the room. I've tried to talk through her fears with her but they are very non-specific. I've tried to encourage her to try being brave for little periods of time and praising her each time she stays alone.

Does anyone have other suggestions of what I can do to help her through it or a shared experience? She already has a night light, comfort toys and our house is small so we are very nearby all the time. We've barely been apart the last few weeks so it's not a separation thing and I've had several conversations with her to make sure nothing else has happened to upset her. I'm certain she would share if it was something else going on.

I'm so nervous she won't get over this. I watched something that scared me as a child and it stayed with me for years and years. sad.gif

#2 JKTMum

Posted 24 January 2013 - 08:27 PM

Are you sure it's the movie that is causing the problem or is that just what tipped the balance? As she is 4.5 is she due to start preschool in a few weeks and this is what she is really stressing about?

Not sure if this would help at all, but my DD1 has Aspergers and has always been very nervous being away from us and when she is very nervous about a situation she almost becomes like glue, stuck to my side in the time leading up to the event. We have talked about if she is stressed and I'm not with her that she imagines me giving her a hug or squeezing her hand and that visualisation seems to calm her down. She went on an interstate camp last year with school which was a huge thing for her and she took a small photo of me which she could get out of her bag (daypack) and sleep with at night so she felt close and connected.

#3 niggles

Posted 24 January 2013 - 09:34 PM

Thanks for that suggestion. She is a very social creature and is usually eager to be out and about seeing new places and people. I'm confident she is not more than the usual level of nervous about starting preschool. It's the same school as her kindy from last year and so she's well settled in there and proud to be a pre primary kid and not a kindy kid anymore. Of course it's possible though. Her best friend won't be moving on to the pre school and I know that will be playing on her mind. We have a catch up with the other kids from the class tomorrow so her behaviour then might shed some light if it's part of the issue.

The photo is a good idea. I think I'll pop one next to her night light tomorrow to remind her that mummy and daddy are here to keep her safe. I'm sure it will be a combination of small things that proves most effective rather than a cure all solution.

#4 schnookaberg

Posted 24 January 2013 - 09:42 PM

Maybe a locket with your picture as a starting school present?

#5 niggles

Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:34 PM

That is such a great idea! She is quite receptive to the idea of little talismans. It was a 'magic crystal' that helped her stop using her dummy. So it might help her to wear it during the day and while sleeping. She wouldn't be allowed to wear it at school though. Maybe pinned in her pocket. I'm hoping the excitment of school and the business of the classroom will be enough company to stop her worries by then.

#6 beabea

Posted 31 January 2013 - 01:17 AM

I would be wary of doing too much, because I wouldn't want to put undue focus on it. If it's just the movie (plus or minus some nerves about preschool) then it should dissipate by itself, and if she can latch on to someone she's comfortable with until it does, then it seems like she's figured out a way to deal with it all by herself. Yay for her!

Of course, in the long run, you could try introducing some other coping techniques for the day she's in a situation where she has to be by herself. Stories, modelling, etc etc.

#7 niggles

Posted 31 January 2013 - 06:36 AM

Thanks for that BeaBea. Things still pretty intense around here. We've been trying to keep it on the down low but it's coming up a lot and with a baby to care for as well and often only one adult in the house to do it, her coping mechanism is running into obstacles at times. We're doing our best to just let her be with us whenever she wants but it's hard to be in two places at once sometimes, or to manage alternatives without fuss.

The stories and modelling we are trying but they are yet to have an impact. She was left in a room alone briefly this week and became very quickly hysterical until I came back.

#8 beabea

Posted 01 February 2013 - 12:33 AM

The stories and modelling we are trying but they are yet to have an impact.

I've found stories and modelling really work in the very long term - months at best, probably years. So that is not really meant as an immediate answer to your problem!

Just thought of another one, though. DS 4.5yo has been very receptive over the past year to these two techniques:

1. Ask him to make a triangle using his fingertips.

2. Ask him to breathe deeply as you count the breaths.

In both cases it works best if you're there - sorry - but once they get the hang of it a bit you can shout it from the next room. You have to use a fairly commanding tone. Not scary-commanding, just firm, insistent and authoritative, if you know what I mean. The sort of voice that can get through to somebody in a panic and make them feel like the secure thing to do is exactly what you say.

I think both are basically working because they're meditative techniques aimed at switching off the adrenalin/cortisol.

There was one someone posted here which is very similar. You get them to pretend they are holding a mug of hot cocoa (so it's a circle with fingertips). Then you get them to blow on the cocoa as if to cool it down (so it's measured breathing).

So yeah, just remembered that's what we've done when emotions are running high and seems to get everyone back into a workable frame of mind. That said, I suspect there's going to be a big measure of riding it out... I have to say, excessive clinginess really wears on me quickly, especially when other things need attending to, so best of luck!

#9 niggles

Posted 01 February 2013 - 12:43 AM

Thanks for that one Beabea. We do something similar to help process emotions like anger and frustration called 'doing the turtle' where she goes in her shell, says stop and takes a breath and then when she is ready comes up and says how she is feeling. She could respond to the triangle technique.

#10 Torismom63

Posted 01 February 2013 - 03:11 AM

Oh my....I'm having some of the same issues. My daughter fears started when she was 4.5yrs old too. She will be 6 in May. She is afraid of the dark...some pictures and plastic plants! She use to be so fearless!...I think they will grow out of it. My sister-in-law's daughter was the same way. She's 9 now and she has developed a lot of nerves. This kid was even afraid to ride a carousel. Now she's riding big kid rides at amusement parks.

I think we just have to give them time. I try not to force anything on her but i must admit it can be frustrating at times because i simply don't understand why she's so afraid all of a sudden. I'll keep you posted... original.gif

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