Monday, October 1, 2012

Fears, Anxiety + Monsters in Childhood

Welcome to October! Welcome to Fall!!
Beware: Creepy, Crawlie, Spooky Times Ahead!
The month of costumes, pretend, make believe and dress up has arrived.

photo of: Preschool Children in Costume for Halloween with Debbie Clement in article on Childhood Fears
Debbie Clement Meets her Fan club in Costume 

For many children the idea of dressing in costume and becoming a princess or ninja for a day [or even a ninja-princess, as the case may be] is the highlight of childhood. Becoming the alter-ego, of pirate or witch in-full-regalia, is the all consuming focus for the entire month of October in the lives of some children. Oh happy day. Delight and joy. October is here! Let the parade of festivities begin. 

photo of: Happy Googlie Eyes or Scary? You be the judge! Childhood Fears article by Debbie Clement

For others the month of October spotlights a little life of oh-so-big angst, anxiety and fear. Children are wired differently. Some children have very little tolerance for the unpredictable, for changes in schedule, for separation from parents, for putting their hands in the goo and grit that others adore. Some children come unglued during fire drills as soon as the alarm sounds, while a same aged peer seems to absolutely adore all of the commotion and activity. For some the whole notion of costumed characters is the very basis for tears and meltdowns. 

photo of: Clown Character: Friend or Foe? Delight or Flight? Childhood Fears by Debbie Clement at PreK+K Sharing

In my ten years as Resource teacher at a site for children with special needs, I have witnessed first hand more than a few encounters where a professional clown leaves one preschooler cowering behind their teacher, shrieking as the clown gives even a gentle peek in their general direction. At the same moment  another child leaps into that same clown's arms, knocking this unknown character over with their unbridled excitement and delight. 

We as professionals have the responsibility of working with that entire range of children's personalities and tolerance from day one. How do we shore up the child expressing great anxiety? How do we encourage the baby steps necessary to move everyone toward growth, self-reliance and independence?  

photo of: Childhood Fears and Anxieties Article at PreK + K Sharing

Eons ago, I had a wee daughter who suddenly began waking numerous times in the middle of the night horribly afraid of monsters. Night after night I offered assurance. Night after night I was without sleep. Until one night in my restless sleeplessness, I asked her where these monsters were. She was very specific. Up on the shelf between the teddy bears. In the closet between the shoes. Suddenly I had the idea to offer her 'monster spray' to act as the bug spray had worked that afternoon -- to repel the monsters away. IT WORKED! She slept through the night. 

I had stumbled upon a tool that somehow 'worked' in her mind. So the next night we sprayed imaginary spray BEFORE bedtime. You can bet that the spraying away of all monsters became a dependable part of our bedtime routine for quite some time to come. Sleep is good. That wee one has grown up and gone on and just received her doctorate. I think its safe to say she's faced down her share of monsters along the way. A simple tool. Imaginary spray. 

Years later, upon seeing some happy monster posters at a teacher supply store, while in Bryan OH giving a library sing-a-long, I was reminded of our family monster spray era. While driving home I wrote the little dittie that would go on to become my song "Monster Spray." I wanted it to walk that fine line of excitement and be upbeat with a big ending, but not be too frightening in the process. I even chose to include the phrase 'irrational airy ones' in describing monsters in the repetitive chorus.  I wanted to offer another tool to teachers, librarians and parents in the arsenal of shoring up the little ones with fears and anxieties. 

photo of: "Magic Monster Mist" The Spray that Chases Monsters Away

The bottle pictured above was a gift to me by a kindergarten girl in Upper Arlington. Her own parents had lovingly crafted this bottle of spray (label-placed-on-spray-bottle-with-water) for her to take to kindergarten -- presumably to slay those k-monsters that lurk in the long hallways. When I began my song, her teacher went running with glee to their room to retrieve the spray bottle. Little K-girl agreed that she no longer needed such a silly prop. She knew without a doubt that there were no monsters in kindergarten. She had survived those first anxiety ridden days. The music lady could now have her unneeded prop and use that silliness in her travels to the little kids. Honest-to-goodness! True story. 

photo of: Overcoming Fears, Anxiety + Monsters at PreK+K Sharing

Of course there are some children who have very REAL and gen-u-ine, understandable reason for fear and anxiety. Unfortunately we have young children who have suffered very real trauma in their early years. In the best of redeeming circumstances there will be a trained counselor with brilliant insight that can help address those tough issues and support that child in their expression and articulation of fear and ultimately lead them to healing, to over come the tragedy experienced. It may be expressing those fears through therapeutic drawings or learning to articulate what has happened. The more tools we have in our arsenal the better.

Parents. You are the best advocate for your child. You know best how your child is wired. You are in the best position to direct your child's teacher in how to support your child. Communication is always the key. On some rare occasions it may even be necessary to request a change in teachers, to best support your child. Professional guidance is always a wonderful support for children who are unduly anxious and afraid. Best to confront these fears early on in an effort to provide a strong foundation for the future. 

I concluded last week on my own blog with a mega-monster RoundUP of ideas from bloggers around the world. There are two dozen ideas to inspire your exploration of the "MONSTER theme" through art projects, construction-sculpture projects, play-doh creations, science experiments, UPcycling, math work, picture books, puppets -- everything, including the kitchen sink. The entire ten yards. You can click here to get to my article which will then direct you on to all of the other sites for the directions, recipes, tools and specific books used for inspiration. Whew. It was fun to put that together. It will be my pleasure to introduce you to other children-bloggers. 

photo of: Master Monster RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach

If you can only read one article from the RoundUP, may I suggest that you go to Crystal's article written on overcoming childhood fears at Becoming a Jeweled Rose. She is living that chapter right now as the mommy to two little roses and has an amazing list of resources and ideas from the parent perspective. 

photo of: "Monster Spray" Digital Download Mp3 by Debbie Clement

In my efforts to grow with the times, I am now translating some of my favorite songs into the digital download format. I have just uploaded the Mp3 files for "Monster Spray" to Teachers Pay Teachers where it is available for your immediate purchase in digital download format. I have created several pdfs to further support the use of my song with young readers. The chorus lyrics are ready to print out for your pocket chart. I've also created a simple template for writing and drawing about those fears experienced, "once upon a time." There are two coloring pages included as well. 
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth -

I'd be ever so grateful for you to follow my little shop over at TpT. You will receive an email with each new 'project' that I create. You'll be up to date and receive notice of any sales that my shop participates in. Who doesn't LUV a sale? 

I am now up to 65,000+ followers over at Pinterest. I have an entire board that is dedicated to all things 'monster' and it has 374 pins already gathered there for your pinspiration! By all means follow me there as well. 

Follow Me on Pinterest

Now, I'd like to share some of the articles from my blog over the last month. A week ago I had a roundUP of oodles of Fall Fun Projects for Little Hands. The article starts with all sorts of ideas for fall leaves and scarecrows and ends up with Jack-o-Lanterns and Black Bats. It's climbing toward my top 10 list!

photo of: Fall Fun Projects for Little Hands: Arts + Crafts via RainbowsWithinReach RoundUP

Here's the link to my RoundUP of Behavior charts. Several from Kindergarten and a couple from Preschool.

Here's a sweet little article with three different approaches to projects using a child's name. 

photo of: Name Recognition in Preschool, Name Projects for Literacy

The newest directory in my series of Pinterest directories is the one for "Special Needs." You'll appreciate following the boards of others who pin from a special needs perspective. Click here for that list of nearly 100 pinners. 

photo of: Pinterest Directory for Those who Pin for Special Needs

-- Debbie -- 

Debbie Clement is editor-in-chief here at our collaborative blog. She has written over 100 original songs for children on to six CDs. She has turned 3 of those songs into picture book format. Having created the artwork for her books as small fabric quilts -- she now travels the country as Author/Illustrator making school visits.

Her own blog is RainbowsWithinReach and her website carries all of her products.

Every now and then she's lucky enought to have a fan that comes dressed in polka-dots as the music-lady. Me and mini-me! 


  1. I liked this so much I included it in my Spooktacular Smorgasbord of Science and Sensory Ideas for Halloween. Hope that is all right.

  2. These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content so I happy to find many good point here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post teddy bears


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