My DS is suddenly afraid of everything!

Catherine - posted on 02/17/2015 ( 2 moms have responded )




He cries about taking a bath (especially washing his hair) he practically refuses to use public restrooms. He doesn't want us to turn the lights off in the bedroom until he falls asleep. Is it normal for a kid to all of a sudden be scared of multiple things? He is 3 1/2 and a happy, active kid.


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Jill - posted on 02/17/2015




WOW! Dealing with fears and phobias can be so hard for moms of young children. I know I dealt with my fair share with my two girls when they were little. They had all kinds of fears including night terrors, fear of dogs and small animals, stage fright (I have performing arts kids), the dark, strangers, etc.

If your son has suffered a recent trauma, and that's from his perspective, then suddenly developing a bunch of seemingly irrational fears can easily happen. And the trauma may have seemed like nothing from your perspective. In fact, you may not even be aware it happened.

When I am working with young children and fears these days, I use the tapping game, which is EFT or emotional freedom techniques, but the parent does it for the child, making it fun and safe. I learned how to do this in 2009 and what a difference it has made in my parenting. Your son will probably think he is being tickled if you do it in a really friendly way.

In technical terms, it is called surrogate EFT tapping. The parent says the words (EFT phrases) in a fun way and lightly taps on the child's energy meridians (8 spots on the face and upper body). Eventually, your son will figure out how to do this himself and he can self-manage his own fears and phobias.

I used this once with a small child who missed her mom at the babysitter's (a friend of mine) and the little girl had been crying for hours.

The set up phrase I used was as follows:

Even though (insert name) really misses her mommy, she knows her mommy loves her to the moon and back. Do this 3 x on the karate chop point (on the side of the hand). (see the links at the bottom of my response for video instructions)

Then the reminder phrase was "misses her mommy" and this was done on the 8 energy meridians. It only took a couple of minutes to do the whole thing and then for the first time that day, the girl stopped crying and played happily on the swing. The feelings of sadness came back after about an hour and I told my friend to just do it again and the girl was able to play again.

In another case, a friend's 4 year old daughter was afraid of Christmas, especially of those singing, dancing toys at Wal-Mart, like snowmen. I did a round of surrogate tapping EFT on her feelings of fear. After that, once she settled down a little, I showed her how the snowman was able to come to life (switch and batteries). I explained that she could control the snowman with the switch and that it was not alive. I asked her if she had ever heard of electricity, at which point her eight year brother piped up that he knew all about that. Anyway, after about 20 minutes she went and picked up one of those snowmen that I had in my house and she began to play with it. In this case, she played with one of my snowmen, but not the other one, but she played with it for the next two months because I gave it to her to keep, She even slept with it until the batteries died, at which point her mother gave a silent prayer of thanks.

In the case of my own children, I have used EFT for all kinds of fears. My kids are a little older (teens) so they mostly do it for themselves, but occasionally, when one of them is really really struggling with an issue or illness, I will still do the surrogate tapping on them.

Just be sure to do the tapping procedure when your son is not around the threatening thing like the bath, the shampoo, the restrooms, or his bedroom.

Just remember that it is a good thing for children to experience early stressors because it helps build resilience in children and all you have to do is give him the skills to manage the stress. If he resists the tapping game, use a reward strategy because this will activate the reward center in his brain and cause his body to produce Dopamine, which is a feel good stress hormone. It is where self-motivation comes from.

Here are the links:

Intro to EFT:
Tapping technique and Phrasing:

Good luck!

Yours in wellness,

Raye - posted on 02/17/2015




Well, the number one question is: have you asked him why he reacts badly to these situations. Maybe there are simple solutions that would help put him at ease.

Lots of kids argue about taking baths. I'm not sure about the problems washing his hair, that could just be something that annoys him. Is he afraid of soap in his eyes? Or does plain water upset him, too? Is it the water going over a specific area that bothers him, like his face, or over his head? Try to narrow down the issues. If he doesn't like water over his face, then have him use a washcloth instead of pouring the water. Whatever the issue, see if there's a workable compromise.

The fear of the dark is pretty normal, but again maybe there's something specific that you can do to help him feel more comfortable. If he's worried about a ghost or monster in the closet, maybe make a "spook repellant potion" from some Fabreeze and a drop or two of food coloring could help... spray it in the closet, under the bed, etc. to help him feel more at ease. Or just reassure him that nothing is there for him to be afraid of and leave a night light on. This is one he'll probably grow out of.

The fear of public restrooms seems like a learned behavior. Has someone mentioned anything about germs or them being dirty or something that he could have overheard and makes him afraid? Again, try to find out specifics that you can address with him to help him become better at removing or controlling the fear.

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