Ask AF: Sudden Fears

When your child develops fears he didn't have before, you may wonder: is it normal kid stuff, or is it an adjustment issue?

Q: Our two-year-old daughter was adopted at 17 months and has adjusted well. In the last few weeks, however, she has developed fears of dogs, motorcycles, and bugs — none of which bothered her before. Is this developmental or is it adjustment?


A: It could be a little bit of both. Typically, kids develop worries and fears at around two-and-a-half to three years of age. Fears of loud sounds, dogs, and bugs are common. Your daughter may need your help managing her fears, as she may not have had much emotional regulation during the first year or so of her life.

Give her opportunities to “play” with bugs — you can use toys if real ones are too scary — and teach her about dogs and motorcycles. Read books about being brave (Kevin Henkes has written several good ones).

If your daughter plays with dolls or stuffed animals, incorporate themes about fear into the play. For example, ask her what the mommy should do when the baby is scared of a loud noise, or what the daddy can do to help the little bunny when the fire truck scares him.

Respect your daughter’s fears and help her develop skills to manage them. Communicate your confidence in her ability to master them.