Fear is such a complex emotion. What may seem trivial and inconsequential for one person, can be positively horrifying and inexplicable for another.
If adult fears are difficult to rationalize, then childhood fears are seemingly impossible, as a child’s ability to distinguish between real and perceived threats is isn’t yet fully developed.
Katie is brave about so many things–she has no fear of monsters or darkness (yet)–but garbage trucks simply terrify her. The truck passes by our house no fewer than four times each Monday, beginning around 9 o’clock and wrapping up around noon. Over time, she has become increasingly concerned about the truck’s whereabouts. It has now reached a point where she trembles as it approaches and begins to tear up, begging to be held.
We’ve tried rationalizing with her, offering up the following standard, predictable reassurances:
The garbage truck won’t hurt you.
The garbage truck can’t fit in our house–you’re safe in here.
The gentleman who drives the truck is going home now to see his kids.
Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t let anything bad happen to you.
None of these have worked.
BabyCenter has a helpful article on preschoolers and fear, with tips including acknowledging your child’s fear, working with her to problem solve, and using pretend play to work through the fear. We’ve tried several of their suggestions, with little success. Today we employed the article’s suggestion to “explain, expose, and explore.”
Since we’ve done about as much explaining as I think we can do, we moved right into exposing and exploring.
I wondered if we put a face to the driver and she could speak to him for a few moments, if she might be less afraid. So yesterday we got serious and made him some brownies. She was so excited that it was nearly all she talked about all day. She stirred and chatted with me about how much he was going to love her “yummy brownies.”
This morning was spent listening and waiting, pacing and anticipating. We heard the truck rumbling down the street and Katie was equal parts excited and petrified. She waited, in my arms, as he approached, brownies in hand and the sweetest, most timid smile I’ve ever seen. We waved him to a stop, they exchanged names, and we gave him her brownies. As he drove away, she was smiling and appeared less afraid, but I don’t think she is over her fear by any means.
Does anyone have any tips or stories they’d be willing to share, just in case the brownie trick didn’t work?