How to Manage Fear
Mike's parents and teacher have a "leg up" over most adults puzzling over young children's fears. They know the basis of Mike's wariness and are likely to agree that after the trauma of his friend's injury, Mike needs both time to heal and reassurance from attentive adults who take the time to tune into his feelings.
Unlike Mike's, most fearful behavior among 3- and 4-year-olds erupts for no apparent reason. All at once, the wind whistling in curtains or rattling the shades seems menacing in darkened bedrooms. The light of day may help children recover their boldness and bluster, only to have it vanish again when darkness returns. Some children become frightened by their own fantasies, particularly aggressive ones. Fear of retaliation is often revealed in their dreams of monsters and the like. Conflict about growing up and away from comforting family closeness as the price for independence arouses fearfulness in many children. Although the origin of these children's fears is less clear, the same calm, reassuring, patient manner of attentive teachers dutifully tuning into whatever is expressed by the children, directly or through play, is still the best antidote, A sense of personal mastery is the reward for those children who, with support, ride out the scary times.