We went camping last weekend. This isn’t something new. We’ve camped before, plenty. We hike a lot. We play outside EVERY day. We are OUTDOORSY people. My kids will catch frogs and fireflies. They hunt worms for fishing and bait their own hooks.
But Lord Help us if we come across a DADDY LONG LEG spider when they are about to go to sleep.
ALL THE LOGIC in the world will not help with this irrational fear.
Here’s some fun facts about DADDY LONG LEGS
- They are NOT spiders. They are a unique class of arachnids called HarvestMen.
- They breathe through their legs.
- They are NOT venomous. They don’t bite humans.
- They eat mosquitoes, aphids, and other bugs that bother us.
- They are over 400 million years old. Yup there are fossils of these things.
But facts can’t help you! Sorry!
Here are some other things that are NOT Helpful (to say out loud. *Feel free to think them!)
- Get Over It!
- Pull Yourself Together
- Are you effing kidding me?
- That’s not a real fear.
- You’ll live through this.
- Oh. My. God. Seriously?
- Trying to leave
So Perhaps your child has an irrational fear – be it HarvestMen, Chuck E Cheese, the curtains, whatever.
Here are some tips to HELP you (and your child) get through these moments.
- Empathize. This is hard but simply requires some filtering of the above phrases. Try “Oh my!” or “Are you okay?” “Awww honey” also works. Nonverbals are what this is all about. You must make that sad, I get it face. Poker champions have nothing on parents!
- Name that feeling! That’s right, pull out some game show skills and NAME THAT FEELING! You are scared. That was really frightening. Wow, I bet you’re uneasy, fearful, uncomfortable, etc.” Eventually your child will nod, grunt uh huh or indicate with a ding that you got it right.
- Provide physical comfort. Hug your child, hold them if they still fit in your lap (or even if they don’t), rock, cuddle, pat on the shoulder, rub their back. You’re not getting away until they feel safe and, for better or worse, locked onto you like a monkey or crawling up into your kangaroo pouch are your only options.
- Think about what is helpful to you when you are scared. When was the last time you made your spouse get out of bed for a strange noise? Or grabbed the baseball bat to walk to the kitchen in the middle of the night? For kids, just being with you will be enough. Help your child feel safe and secure. You can’t protect them from everything, but even when SCARY things happen, you will be there! That is the lesson you want them to know. No matter what – I’ll be there.