Coping with Twins’ Fears

It’s extremely common for young children to develop fears. In fact, according to The Harvard Medical School Mental Health Letter (Aug. 1998), 90 percent of children develop some sort of phobia. When they are very young, children usually fear real events, such as the sound of a garbage truck or a dog barking. As they mature, their fears may gradually take the form of imaginary things, like monsters, although fears of real things like insects, water and dogs may remain. Fears are the brain’s way of keeping a child safe. With multiples, this problem can become compounded because one child usually influences the other. If one starts screaming about a shadow on the wall, soon they’re both yelling! It’s also not uncommon for one child to be more fearful than the other. One might be afraid to go down the slide, while the other goes down like it’s no big deal!

Although fears are very common, they can usually be overcome with a little patience. For instance, you might want to go down the slide with your fearful child in your lap until he understands that he’ll be safe going down by himself. When one of my sons was afraid of the dark, a nightlight and his favorite stuffed animal to “protect” him were very helpful. Ask your child what would make him feel safe, but also set boundaries. A child who’s allowed to sleep in your bed will soon be heading there every night. Let him know that he needs to find a solution in his own room.

Always take your children’s fears seriously, even if they seem ridiculous to you. Even though you know there’s no such thing as monsters, young children still have a hard time differentiating between reality and make-believe. If only one twin suffers from intense fears, don’t allow the other twin to mock or tease her. This is a good opportunity to teach compassion. And never force your children to face their fears head-on, like throwing an insect in their lap or tossing them into the water. It’s less traumatic for a child to help him overcome his fears gradually. Let your twins see you handle the things they fear, like taking a bath or petting an animal. You might try reading stories or watching videos that deal with facing fears. Try to understand where your twins’ fears may be coming from. Sometimes they can spring up if a child is feeling stressed about other things, such as a new home or the illness of a family member. If they’ve seen a TV show or movie that has made them scared, talk about how movies are made with actors and costumes acting out a part. (And do be sure to limit young children’s exposure to violent events.)

Eventually, your kids should outgrow their fears, but if they persist for an extended period of time or become debilitating (for instance, you can never take your child anywhere because he’s too afraid to get into a car), then professional therapy is advised. Some children just have more cautious personalities, so you need to determine if this is your child’s nature or there’s a more serious problem.

Most common childhood fears:

Darkness and/or shadows

Animals and/or insects

Imaginary things, like monsters or ghosts

Storms

Fire

Water

Strangers

Germs

Death (of selves or parents)

New situations (starting school, going to a party, seeing the doctor)

Falling

Using the toilet

Vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers and other things that make loud noises

Copyright ©2007 by Susan M. Heim. Excerpted from It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence.

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.