Monday, February 22nd, 2010
In our March issue we have a really interesting story on children and anxiety (“Worried Sick,” page 50). We offer very helpful advice for the roughly 15 percent of kids who suffer from anxiety that’s major enough to impact their daily routine. We also address the more common fears that just about every child between the age of 2 and 7 experiences—stuff like being scared of the dark, afraid of dogs, bugs, and so on.
This story has more personal significance to me now than it did even a month ago, when I was putting the finishing touches on the edit. In the past week or so, my 17-month-old has developed an incredibly specific fear: tiny specks. It started with a microscopic black spot in our bathtub, where the white enamel has worn away. It’s been there Lila’s whole little life, but she just noticed it, and she points to it and works herself up until she cries. I think she thinks it’s an ant. I admit we seem to have a few of them scurrying around our house at the moment. (We’re not infested or anything, I feel compelled to explain.) Anyway, I’ve tried downplaying the speck, covering it with a bath toy, and turning her around in the tub so she’s facing away from it. All strategies have proved beyond ineffective. My husband had the inspired idea to use White-Out on the spot, and that worked… until Lila found an even more infinitesimal dot in the tub, and fixated on that. I had to laugh, as bad as I feel for her. But the fear has made its way outside the bathroom, and now my child worriedly points to any small thing that shouldn’t be there: lint, a piece of dust, a teeny scrap of paper. The only things that don’t scare her are crumbs. She just eats those.
Does your child have slightly unusual fears? How are you handling them? And if they’ve gone away, how long did they last?