The Game: Acting Out Scary Situations
On the surface, it doesn't make much sense that your monster-phobic kid would even want to utter the "m" word, let alone spend any time pretending to be one. But slipping into scary roles helps toddlers cope when they feel freaked out. At this age, your child may not have the vocabulary to explain what's bothering her, but she is able to release her emotions through play. "It's a safe way for her to explore her bad feelings and find ways to manage them," says Dr. Healy.
Your Role: If your child decides to involve you in her scary dramas -- by making you the monster's "victim," for example -- don't try to dismiss her fears by acting brave or indifferent, which may frustrate her. Instead, let her know that you understand how she feels ("That monster seems pretty scary!"), so she knows you're listening. Then, try to ease her anxiety by making her laugh. You might invent a silly monster to get her mind off the bad one ("It has six heads and pink stripes, and it only eats doughnuts!").