February is friendship month and kids can be friends with monsters, the dark, and other fears. It’s easier to deal with now than later and we can use play.
Being scared is a typical challenge for young children. Some fears, like loud noises, develop from the extra stimulation on children’s senses. Plus, there are so many unknowns and kids don’t have the experience to know what’s logical and what’s not. Water goes down the drain, so why can’t they? Getting a haircut doesn’t hurt like getting a finger cut. In this case, the words add to the confusion. Using stories, puppets, games, paper and crayons, play dough and a few household items, we can help kids cope with fears.
When the lights are off, objects look like strange creatures or monsters. One clever strategy is to fill a spray bottle with colored water and label this as Monster Spray. Whenever kids think there are monsters, they can give a squirt or two and the monsters go away. There are dozens and dozens of stories about monsters under the bed. In one story, “Brave Little Monster” by Ken Baker, a baby monster is afraid of the boy under the bed. Of course, the monster parents try and tell him there’s no such thing as boys and girls. Laughter helps anyone deal with fears. Games do too. Sometimes a game of pretending to be monsters that chase each other gives kids the opportunity to turn monsters into play.
Drawing a scary monster, building one with blocks, or making one with play dough seems to reduce them from the giant ones in imagination to only a handful. These activities work for real creatures too, like spiders or bugs or worms. With crayons or paints, kids can color what they are afraid of. Drawing spiders and creating some out of craft materials takes them from 3-d to 2-d and they don’t seem so scary. Like with monsters, books are a great resource. If you can’t find the specific one you need, you can make up your own story to tell your child.
For the dark, astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote about his own experience as a child in the book, The Darkest Dark. From being too afraid to sleep in his own bed, he instead becomes fascinated by stars and outer space. As kids hear the words about “the power and the mystery and the velvety black” they too begin to change their fear into curiosity.
Fears to children are very real. Acknowledging their feelings is important. Using the tools and resources of childhood, kids can be friends with monsters, the dark, and other fears. How do you help your child cope?