Posted By Sue on July 28, 1999 at 13:10:07
My 3 year old nephew is a very sensitive young boy who is very smart and never forgets anything. His father spanked him about a month ago because he was being too rough with his younger brother and now he always thinks daddy is going to spank him. On top of that he is having very bad nightmares where he wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. He tells us that Chuckie is here (meaning Chuckie Cheese). We've only been to Chuckie Cheese twice because he is scared to death of Chuckie Cheese. Yesterday he woke up from a nap screaming and would not step on the floor. He had to be carried and stood on the kitchen chair to eat, then had to be carried into the living room and sat on top of the sofa (as far away from the floor as he could get), and then he had to be carried into bed - he was scared to death to walk on the floor because something was going to get him. This has been going on for a while. He is also frightened of every little thing. When the smoke alarm goes off in the house he gets scared to death and wants to be carried all over the place. Is there any help you can give us? At times he will be fine but other times he's afraid of anything and everything. He also thinks that things are going to jump out of the tv at him. Can you think of any reason this is happening?
Posted By HVMA Ph.D. - KDK on July 28, 1999 at 19:31:58
Nightmares in a three-year-old signify daytime emotional struggles and can often occur after a child has experienced something frightening (such as your nephew's fear of Chuckie Cheese). He'll probably need some comforting holding to calm and reassure him, as well as straightforward talk about keeping him safe, taking care of him, etc., and a little bit of talk about the experience having been a dream (as opposed to reality).
Now, your nephew may be an anxious/fearful child by nature, and generally timid and reactive to many things in his life. The sort of heightened fear you describe is not the norm for his age over any protracted period. Episodically, it wouldn't particularly be a cause for concern. Is there anything about the nature of his day-to-day life that would have him on edge (e.g., frequent separations from his parents, unusual stress in the family)? In response to his panic, it's important to be sensitive, responsive and caring, but not to indulge him too much. This sometimes unwittingly adds to the child's fear by making it seem that there is actually something to be afraid of. In general, three-year-olds who display the reactions of your nephew are feeling vulnerable and unsafe, and this is usually in response to unsettledness in the environment.
Re: his fear of spanking, this is now a realistic fear - i.e., it has happened to him. So it's only natural that he'll fear it will occur again (particularly since he's at the anxious/fearful end of the spectrum in general). If spanking is not going to be the usual response to misbehavior, it would help to tell him this and to quickly let him know what he should expect in the wake of misbehavior on his part.
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*Keyword: Fears, Anxiety, Nightmares, Spanking,
3 yr old scared of everything & has nightmares Sue 7/29/1999
Re: 3 yr old scared of everything & has nightmares HVMA Ph.D. - KDK 7/29/1999
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