Fear of Spiders is Keeping This Child Awake. What Should She So?

MY TODDLER IS AFRAID TO SLEEP ALONE IN HER BED AFTER SEEING A SPIDER.

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DR. SUSAN RUTHERFORD: Let's look at what's going on here in order to solve the problem. A toddler had the traumatic, scary experience of seeing a spider and now she is afraid more spiders will come get her when she goes to sleep.

MOLLY: This question came to us from a mom in Boston, Massachusetts. She added that she has been “checking the bed, laying with her daughter, comforting her but nothing seems to be working.” And now her daughter doesn’t want to nap alone or go to her bed at night. Is there anything else the parents can do?

DR. RUTHERFORD: I think what she is doing so far is great! I would have done just the same things, so her instincts are right on there.

Her daughter, however, isn’t completely "settled" by her Mom's actions. That tells us the child continues to hold on to a fair amount of anxiety from the initial event of seeing the spider. It’s important to keep working with her about this so that it doesn't stay with her for too long a period of time.

MOLLY: Since this was so traumatic for the child, is there anything more the mom can do?

DR. RUTHERFORD: I would suggest that the mom continue her 'routine' of checking for spiders and also ask her daughter to take an active role in the ritual. This will help to empower the child. Because she sleeps alone, she needs some ways to be able soothe her own anxieties as she moves forward.

Additionally, mom could imbue one of her stuffed animals with a special power to .....

Read the rest of Dr. Rutherford's advice at Conversations With My Mother.com

Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford publish Conversations With My Mother.com, an online resource for offering practical parenting tips and psychological insight into raising kids. Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist with a busy family practice for more than 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University, and the University of Denver. 

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