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What to do? Advice would be appreciated

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My normally fearless DS (2 1/2) has very recently developed two very severe fears.

He is suddenly terrified of public washrooms.  He is fine at home and at friends houses, but if I take him to the mall or the grocery store or a restaurant he screams bloody murder if we have to go into the bathroom.  He tells me that he is scared of the potty.  I have some idea of where this might have come from.  Some public washrooms have those self-flushing toilets that literally "suck" the water down in record time, and some have those extra-strength hand driers that sound like a jet engine, and I imagine that maybe one of those sounds caused this sudden fear, even though he has been exposed to these sounds since he was born. 

However, around the same time as the fear of public washrooms came to light, he also because terrified of the dark... and I do mean terrified!  The first time it happened was in the middle of the night, he woke me up screaming and I ran to his room.  He said there was a monster outside his door, and he was shaking so hard it took me almost 15 minutes to calm him down.  I lay with him for about 1/2 hour but he wouldn't go back to sleep.  I finally told him I would leave his door open and the light on and that's when he managed to settle back down.  Anyhow, since then he refuses to sleep with his door closed and the light in the hallway must be on.  I have no idea what triggered this.  He has always slept with his door closed and he has never needed a night light.  

Would you be concerned if your child suddenly became fearful of things that never bothered him before (especially if there were no incident, that you could recall, that might trigger that fear)?  I'm more concerned about why he would be afraid of these things, rather than I am about dealing with the fear (I'm sure that with positive reinforcement and a lot of patience, we'll manage to help him overcome them).

by on Jul. 24, 2012 at 6:37 PM
Replies (11-12):
by on Jul. 25, 2012 at 7:18 PM

Okay, now that everyone has helped to make you feel better about this, let me upset the balance.  Yes, fears are common for toddlers and young children, but SUDDEN fears, especially strong ones, are usually a "red flag" that maybe someone has sexually abused the child.

Was there ever a time when your toddler got away from you?  Or was left with a babysitter in a Mall?  Could he ever have been in a public washrom WITHOUT you present, that somethinhg dreadful might have occured?  I would take your child to his pediatrician for a physical, which may reveal if there are any small tears or bruises around the area. 

Probably, nothing happened. Most likely this is part of "normal" fears, but I'd want to rule out the posiblilty of sexual assault first, so that if this happened, you can get your child some counseling.

Finally, did your child recently see the movie "Saving Nemo" from Disney?  I had a bunch of three year olds who were terrified of sitting on the potty, because the fish in that movie got flushed down the toilet and lost out in the ocean.  (I haven't seen the movie, so maybe have some facts wrong, but I was told it involved a fish and a toilet).  Some ways we helped the yougn children deal with this fear is to put a stepstool by the toilet, so while they were perched on the seat, their feet could touch the stool and give them a feeling of control over the situation.  Also, like someone else suggested, keep the toilet from flushing until the child is OFF the seat.

Good luck!

by on Jul. 30, 2012 at 11:59 AM

I am wiondering if this a normal phase cause my 18 mos old is doing the same

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