Adventures in Drool:  Coping with fear

Teach children that sleeping is something fun to do alone. BY RACHEL SWICK MAVITY
June 4, 2012

Fear is something we all deal with. Every living thing has experienced fear, and while researchers say the top fear is public speaking, I think the top fear for moms is how to cope with a child's fear.

Children can be scared of all sorts of things. Not all fears are rational. Some are. First make sure what kind of fear your child is having, and reassure him that it will be fine.

Many times these fears come to the surface during milestones in a child's development. Parents will be trotting along, patting themselves on the back for doing such a great job, when all of a sudden, the child loses it for no specific reason.

In many cases, a child's fear comes to the surface because the future is unknown.

I can attest to having concern about the future and the unknown. I like to be in control of everything around me, but the future is one thing that no one can control. Sometimes I have a hard time dealing with that. But, we all have to deal with the unknown at some point.

So do our kids.

Nighttime can bring out the worst - scary shadows on the wall, monsters under the bed, scary dreams - so we have to learn how to help our children conquer these fears.

Remove the monsters. In some cases for older children, turning on the lights and checking for monsters can quell the fears. But, for young children, it can be hard to even understand what the fear is for them. If a piece of furniture casts the scary shadows on the wall, remove it or change its location. Adding a night-light might also help.

Screaming at 3 a.m. because of a bad dream can happen to infants. It is hard to rationalize to them that it was just a dream. All they know is they are scared and they can't communicate the scariness.

Explain fear. Help them cope with stories about the morning coming. Teach them that their bed is a happy place. Don't ever put a child into the crib as a punishment - that could lead to every bedtime routine being seen as a punishment.

Most researchers say children under the age of 2 don't have nightmares of monsters, but in my experience bad dreams can happen to infants. It might not be monsters, but a bad feeling like falling can awaken young children.

Separation anxiety might also be to blame for nighttime crying. It seems like Droolface wakes up and realizes he is alone and gets sad or scared. While nothing is physically wrong, he freaks himself out.

Keep it consistent. Showing him love helps, but it is probably not a good idea to take the baby out of the crib every time he cries. That's just my opinion. A cycle like that could lead to the baby crying for more attention, even when he isn't scared. Tell him he is loved and safe, put his blanket back on or turn on some music. But then leave him to figure it out and go back to sleep. If he is very dramatic or seems to be unable to calm down, then hug him or hold him so he can calm down.

In the morning, be excited to see your baby. Congratulate him on sleeping well and show him how he was safe and cozy all night. It is important for children to love sleep and to love their rooms. Show him how fun it is to have this special place to be on his own - it might just save you from the 3 a.m. screaming in the future.


I apologize if you can tell I am writing today's post on little sleep. Send comments to

  • Real Parents. Real Food. Real Fun.

    Welcome to Adventures in Drool! Talking about green living, getting rid of plastics and toxic chemicals in our homes and raising happy kids on a budget. Join the conversation ( and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!

    Rachel Swick Mavity, author of the blog, lives with a reformed drooler (Droolface), who at age 3 loves to get muddy, drink homemade smoothies, giggle and flirt with old ladies. Her current drooler (Birdy) enjoys spitting up on work clothes and leaving drool trails as a way of showing her love.

    Mavity previously worked as a journalist for seven years at newspapers from Pennsylvania to Maryland and Delaware. In Sussex County she worked for several newspapers, including the Cape Gazette. She lives in Lewes with her husband, Ryan Mavity, their son, "Droolface," and daughter, "Birdy."