Tips For Dealing With Children’s Fear Of Loud Noises

It Won’t Hurt You, It’s Just People Drying Their Hands

I know I’m not alone when it comes to being wary when taking my child to use public toilets when out and about. But it’s not because I’m worried about germs; there’s plenty everywhere and toilets are no different, and it’s not because of strangers; I’m not sending my child in alone she’s 4. No I have to scope out every public toilet for hand dryers; they are the bane of my life.

Like many parents I have a child who is scared of a wide range of loud noise. Currently Bebe does not like and has never liked: the sound of a hairdryer (I have to go into another room or dry my hair at night with our bedroom door shut), the sound of lorries/motorbikes going past (a bit tricky as the nursery run is up a busy main road, and of course hand dryers. Every time she needs the toilet when we are out I inwardly go “bugger”. It’s not that I don’t want to take her to the toilet it’s that I know the experience can be traumatic for her. Hand dryers switch on when she is not expecting it, she doesn’t know how long it will last or when it will happen again. I find myself seeking out individual disabled toilets (apologies to the disabled) so I can make sure a hand dryer is not used. I have also resorted to keeping a potty in the car for any eventuality but Bebe will be 5 soon and is getting a bit big for a potty, plus she can use a toilet and will need to when she is at school.

It’s interesting that when you talk to some people (those without children) they regard this as an irrational fear. I vividly remember trying to change Bebe’s nappy in a busy toilet when she was 2 and the people who kept using the hand dryer right next to the baby change unit were just looking at me as though I should keep my baby from crying. I was close to tears seeing my child so upset. (Note to all providers of public conveniences NEVER PUT A HAND DRYER NEAR A BABY CHANGING MAT, EVER!)

Yesterday my understanding and frustration at Bebe’s fear reached new levels. She asked if we could go to her favourite ‘Dinosaur Swimming Pool’ (they have large dinosaur models suspended from the ceiling). It was raining, Grandma was with us for the day and Lala likes swimming, so I thought why not. Everything was fine until we got into the swimming pool. It was busier than normal and therefore louder and echoing more than normal. My little girl, who normal races around splashing, going on the slides and practising her swimming, sat on the side of the baby pool with her fingers in her ears. She didn’t want to go any further than one metre away from me or she sat in my lap and wanted to be hugged. We left after 30 minutes.

Now I don’t actually know what to do about this. I googled it this morning and www.everydaylife.globalpost.com came up with this:

Step 1

Note the situations that cause a fearful reaction to sound. For example, your child might feel scared of thunder but not a loud car engine. The circumstances might also play a role. He may feel scared when he hears loud sounds away from the comfort of home, or he may only react in a negative way when he’s tired. Gathering specific details about your child’s fear of loud noises helps you manage the situation.

Step 2

Talk to your child when you anticipate the potential for loud noises. If you take him to a Civil War re-enactment, he is likely to hear loud gunfire. A parade means loud instruments, honking horns and sirens. Bad weather has the potential for thunder. Let him know he may hear loud sounds, but you will keep him safe.

Step 3

Explore the causes or reasons for loud sounds so your child has a better understanding of what is happening. You might say, “Do you know why the sirens on a fire truck are so loud? It’s so everyone knows the truck is coming. It may sound scary, but it’s actually to keep you safe so you don’t get in the way. It’s also a sign that the firefighters and paramedics are on their way to help someone who needs it.”

Step 4

Ease your child into being around loud sounds that you can control, such as the vacuum cleaner. Let him see the object when it isn’t running. Use the vacuum cleaner when he is in another room so it isn’t quite so loud. This method doesn’t work for all sources of loud sounds. An alternative is to play a video with the scary sound, such as a video of a thunderstorm. Watching the video and hearing the thunder that way helps him get used to the sound so it isn’t as scary when a real thunderstorm happens.

Step 5

Talk your child through a situation with a loud sound. If a loud motorcycle drives by, say, “Wow! That was really loud! That sound surprised me. I feel my heart pumping. But I know I’m safe and the motorcycle wasn’t going to hurt me. I feel my heart slowing down. Do you feel it too?”

Step 6

Comfort your child physically when he feels scared because of a loud noise. Hold him close to you during a noisy parade, for example. Hold your hands over his ears as a noisy jet passes by. Offer him a favourite stuffed animal to cuddle during a thunderstorm.

This is great if a little aimed at a US audience but I’ve been doing this for the past 2 years and it’s not really helped, it also seems to be hinting at not taking your child to situations that could be upsetting for them; bit tricky when it comes to toilets.

Still I shouldn’t be dismissive and I will try hard to be understanding even though Lala is starting to develop similar traits and I can sometimes feel myself going “oh for fuck’s sake”. Getting cross with the girls doesn’t help them or me.

I am hoping that this is something we can work through but I know that there are plenty of parents out there who have to deal with this on a daily basis with older children who through no fault of their own have these very real fears and will continue to have them. To those parents, I salute you and your patience.


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