When Fear Can Be Helpful
Encourage your child to talk about what he's afraid of and why. "Often if you're able to talk about your child's fears, they become less scary," says Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., coauthor of Positive Discipline A-Z (Prima Publishing, 1999). You could also reveal a childhood fear of your own and explain how you overcame it.
If some elements of your preschooler's fears are reasonable, acknowledge that. For children with a fear of big dogs, for instance, "point out that sometimes being afraid of dogs is good," Dr. Segal says. "Then help your child recognize signs of a friendly dog, such as tail wagging, and come up with a strategy for coping with unfriendly dogs."
Sometimes insight can put a fear to rest. At 3, Allison Cohen, of Davie, Florida, was terrified of clowns. That Halloween, Allison had a chance to watch a friend of her parents dress in his clown costume. "He left off the makeup," says Allison's mother, Brandy, "and she realized that clowns are just regular people."