Sunday, 15 April 2012

How to assuage your children's fears

My three Peapods have all had different fears at different times of their lives. Just saying to a child, "Don't be silly, there's no such thing as monsters/ghosts etc," doesn't work. The fear is real to them, so the solution needs to be real too.

Bobby's fear was monsters. She slept with a plastic sword under her pillow to fight them until we found a better solution. Bobby's fears were imaginary, so we imagined 'friends' who would protect her while she slept. Bobby was a huge fan of Star Wars, so she created imaginary friends who were all Star Wars characters, tougher than any monster and therefore able to defend her. This worked well for a while, then it all started to get out of hand. Luke Skywalker began demanding dinners, Obi Wan wanted a seat next to Bobby on the bus, and Jar Jar Binks had a birthday practically every day. The last straw came when I had nowhere to sit: "Don't sit there, mum, Darth Maul is sitting there." Darth Maul was banished to the shed with the other characters. She was allowed to chose ONE to bring out every night.

Phyllis has a fear of monsters too, but for her it's the fear of being eaten.
Phyllis: "Mummy the monster's coming! What if he eats me?"
Me: "Why would the monster want to eat you? There's not a pick on you. If a monster DID manage to get in the house, he'd go for Daddy for sure. Daddy's fatter."
Phyllis is happy with this.

Peter's fear is much more real. Peter worries about being kidnapped. Now this is a possibility, and I have to say is one of my fears too. It is difficult to open a newspaper these days without being confronted with tales of cruelty to children. However, passing these fears on to my son is not helpful. My kids have been grilled what to do if approached by a stranger, and they know that secrets need to be told if they are making someone unhappy. I want them to feel confident not afraid, as fear makes them more vulnerable.

Now I am sure I have mentioned this before, but just to reiterate, Peter has autism. I call him my Little Weirdo. For those who think this is cruel, read 'Fried Green Tomatoes' and take note of why Issy calls Ruth's little boy Stump. Peter is proud of being different.
With that in mind, this is how the conversation went:
Peter: "Mum, what if someone comes along and kidnaps me?"
Me: "Well, that's possible, but don't worry Peter. You're such a little weirdo they'd soon bring you back."
Peter giggles. No more fear.

Today: My amazing Bobby
Last summer, Bobby and a friend were approached by a man in a car who asked them directions to the nearest field and offered them alcohol. Bobby directed him miles away, took a photo of his car number plate on her 'phone and went into a shop. When they came out, he started following them again. They went to the vicarage where the vicar let them use the 'phone to call me and the police.
Using the information Bobby gave them, the man was caught and imprisoned. He was on the top 10 most wanted paedophile list and had abused countless children. My blood ran cold to think what may have happened if Bobby hadn't been so sensible, calm and strong. I'm so proud of my daughter for fighting the real monster and winning. Well done Bobby! I love you xxxxx

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