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How can I help my 2-year-old overcome irrational fear?

Feelings of anxiety and fear are natural responses to danger. Your child might perceive a situation or object to be dangerous and react accordingly by showing fear. While you think that such a reaction is irrational, you should make a point of acknowledging your child's fears and working through them together. Telling your child that there is nothing to afraid of and then ignoring their fear will not work at all.

Recognise what your child is afraid of and identify the source by talking about it. Comfort your child and explain why the thing they are scared of is not a real danger. Things that make loud sounds, such as vacuum cleaners or dirt trucks, can terrify a child. Explain how these things work and use demonstrations to ease your child's fear of them. Show how a vacuum cleaner sucks up small debris, but leaves larger objects unharmed. Accompany your child and confront fears, whenever possible.

Your child may want to use a well-loved object, such as a favourite toy, to alleviate feelings of fear and anxiety in certain situations. This can be used as a transitional tool to help your child overcome a particular fear. If your child is afraid of something painful or traumatic that happened in the past, you should not try to down-play those fears. Be honest about pain from injections, or similar unavoidable unpleasant things. Put the pain and fear in context for your child. Stay with your child during vaccinations, or visits to the doctor or dentist. Your presence and reassurance will help with taking away anxiety.

When working through overcoming fear, you can try role-play to expose your child to a scenario that is scary for them. Use toys to represent other people and mimic the situation that your child is scared of, such as a visit to the doctor.

Do not expose your child to your own irrational fears. This serves as an example for future behaviour. You can tell your child about how you overcame past fears, especially if your child is suffering from the same ones.

If your child's fears start making daily life difficult, talk to your doctor about them, because your child could be suffering from a phobia.

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