toddler fear psychology

I think yesterday we saw the worst of Cate’s cold. She was basically having one continuous asthma attack all day long, poor kiddo. We were giving her the maximum amount of albuterol that we could, and she was still miserable. She seems a lot better today; she’s still a little wheezy, but she’s been playing and laughing and acting more like her normal self.

There’s something I want to ask you guys, just to see if there’s any knowledge out there that can help: has anyone ever experienced toddler panic attacks? That appears to be what we’re dealing with in regards to Cate’s sleeping issues. If I walk anywhere close to her crib while I’m holding her, she starts whimpering and shaking, and she clamps onto me as if her life depends on it. I used to be able to put her down while she was still awake, turn on her CD and leave the room, and she didn’t make even a peep of objection. Now, she can be all the way asleep, but when I move her to her crib, if she wakes up enough to realize that she’s in the crib, she will force herself to wake up all the way and WIG. OUT.

I don’t know how to describe it, this goes way beyond normal crying or a standard-issue tantrum. She shakes with terror, she tries to climb the rails of her crib and she howls like she’s scared to death. It tears my heart out, I can’t stand to listen to it. A coupe of times we’ve tried to let her cry it out, but either Dave or I always cave and end up going to get her. (I do realize that going to get her totally defeats the purpose, because all we’re doing is teaching her that if she screams long enough, Mommy or Daddy will eventually come get her, but I challenge you to come sit in my house and try to listen to that screaming for more than 10 minutes.)

Stuff I’ve tried: I’ve made sure that a good portion of her toys are in her room, and we spend a fair amount of time in there playing, trying to get her more comfortable in her new room. Also, she has a nightlight and an air filter for white noise, same as she had at the old house.

I’ve noticed that this doesn’t only apply to her crib. She’s also now terrified of the vacuum cleaner, which is a new development. (And seriously, she’s never had any traumatic encounters with the vacuum, so I can’t imagine where this came from.) The other night we got the vacuum out, and she started shaking and saying, “all done! all done!!” over and over, before I had even plugged the thing in. When she realized I was the one who was going to use the vacuum, she reached for Dave and basically tried to climb up him. She’s like one of the cats.

We met with a new pediatrician on Thursday, and when I mentioned this, he kind of brushed me off with the “yeah, all kids are different, takes them different amounts of time to adjust to new environments, blah blah blah”. I don’t think he really “got” how bad it is.

It’s upsetting to me because she’s always been a very cautious child, the type who needs to think something over for a while before she’ll decide to try it. But she seems to have gone from cautious to outright fearful, and it kills me because I feel like this is our fault for uprooting her world and causing all of this insecurity. Of course, there isn’t anything we can do about it now. I suppose I’m just wishing that we had made this move a year ago, before she was quite so aware of her environment. But I don’t really know where to go from here, so if any of y’all have any advice, let me have it.

6 thoughts on “toddler fear psychology

  1. Ohh gosh Cindy that sucks! Poor Catie šŸ™ I lie propped up on floor and hold Bella’s hand and sing to her until she falls asleep. That way she can still see my eyes as well I bring my iPod with me so that I don’t get too frustrated when it takes a while. We also bought some ear plugs, just to take the edge of the super high pitched crying. I have also found that talking her through the issue seems to help as well. In a calm voice letting her know that it’s ok to be frustrated, sad, scared, (whatever the emotion) and that if we breathe together, talk it out, or if I just sit there with her – it seems to bring her back down to earth. Hope today gets a little better..

  2. That’s awful! The vacuum cleaner thing happens with e-baby too, and public toilets flushing, and other loud noises that suddenly started scaring her around 20 months or so. It makes sense, loud noises weren’t scary because her imagination couldn’t maket hem scary, and then suddenly, yikes!

    But the bed thing sounds like a different issue. It sounds like she has a negative association with her bed.

    This is a long shot, but what about putting her crib in your bedroom for a few weeks, until she gets more comfortable with everything? She can see/hear you but will be in her own bed. Like Janet says, sit nearby when she goes to sleep, but don’t hold her or put her in your bed (yeah, easier said than done). In the daytime, keep on playing in her room, and then move her back into her room once this fearfulness subsides?

    If it doesn’t get better in a week or 2, I’d re-raise the issue with the pediatrician.

  3. The only negative association she could possibly have with the crib is that it’s When Mommy Leaves. And I think that with the insecurity that the move brought up, maybe she worries that I won’t come back? Who knows.

    The strange thing is that if I can sneak her into her crib after she’s asleep (without waking her up), she wakes up in the morning totally fine. Over the baby monitor, we’ll hear her talking to her teddy bear, just happily chatting away. So it’s not the crib itself, it’s something about going to sleep in the crib. Very weird.

  4. Poor Cate. I wish we had some great words of wisdom to share but we were, as you mentioned, lucky enough to do our move long before Miss C was really aware of what we were doing. I hope Cate gets through this soon. Cat’s suggestion about moving the crib is valid in that Cate will know you aren’t leaving. Maybe instead of moving the large crib you could use her pack and play in your room for a little while. Just enough for her to know you are still there while you work on getting her back in her crib. We wish you luck in getting this issue settled. Lots of hugs and stuff from us!

  5. Oh gosh. I wish I had some words of advice for you. We are having a hard time letting Maddie cry it out at the moment. I’m sure it’s just Cate adjusting to her new home, but that doesn’t make it any easier on you. My heart goes out to you!

  6. I’m betting Cate’s still adjusting to the move. This is just a gut reaction based on nothing but assuming the pediatrician is competent and reading your semi-daily accounts of Cate’s life and behavior from pre-conception so… grain of salt, right?

    I wonder if all the cleaning (and vacuuming) required for Open Houses and The Great Move has become connected in Cate’s mind. The Vacuum = upheaval and disruption. You know how the cat carrier becomes connected with the vet after a couple visits? Like that.

    Maybe if you got Cate her own brand new shiny vacuum toy and made a game out of it? Maybe you guys could have “vacuum races” across the living room floor or sing silly songs about it to make it less intense? “The Vacuum on the floor goes BRRRRM BRRRM BRRRM” instead of the “Wheels on the Bus?”

    As for bedtime… my nephew-type-kid Aiden is a very cautious little boy whose a few months older than Miss C. (When we’re at the beach, we visit the carousel without riding it at least twice before he’s ready to ride. He’s not scared, just thoughtful.)

    What if you “warm her up” by talking about bedtime? “We have a bath, a song and a story before bedtime! Then Mama will put you in your crib” then “We have a song and a story until you will go in your crib,” then “Storytime, then bedtime” so you kind of “count down” to the moment?

    This is in lieu of me driving over there with a pitcher of margaritas, ’cause… yeah. *shrug?*

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