Something has happened that makes TSK concerned for safety, or concerned that something else may happen that isn’t understood, and therefore may be bad. We don’t understand how young infants think about this, but older kids can show fear when someone or something that is larger than themselves comes at them quickly or from behind them, or unexpectedly picks them up or does something like take something from them in a scary manner.
The eyes will still be wide, but not as much as with the surprise look, and the eyebrows won’t be as high. The mouth will be a little more tense. In fact, you can sometime see all the muscles getting more tense, all over. Usually, babies will cry when afraid, though, if they are afraid a lot, they learn to be very quiet. This is not good. In some older people being afraid will make them very still so they can’t move! In others, it can make them try to run away or wiggle or crawl, if they are little.
What happened inside TSK’s brain and body when he is afraid:
The fear chemicals were released and went to certain parts of the brain to get ready for what would happen next. In some people the reaction is to make them “freeze”, and in others it is to make them run or move. Most young children have no control over these chemicals. Many older kids and adults don’t either.
The most important thing that happens with fear is the release of Cortisol. Cortisol helps in the short term, because it helps the body and brain get ready for any new problems. BUT, if TSK feels fear often, or can’t stop feeling afraid, the Cortisol stays high in the body and can cause serious damage. Too much cortisol can cause troubles sleeping, later problems with memory, and even diseases like heart disease and maybe some diseases, like arthritis and diabetes are caused or made worse with too much cortisol
What to do to help TSK deal with the Fear reaction:
Watch closely to see if you can tell when TSK is afraid. Be sure to remove TSK from a dangerous place as soon as possible.
- Make eye contact with TSK
- In a soft, reassuring voice, tell him you love him and you will keep him safe
- Cuddle him and soothe him
If you can’t personally do these things, for whatever reason, find someone who can as soon as possible!
Be sure that NO ONE every laughs or makes fun of ANYONE who is afraid; this makes the cortisol levels stay higher and can cause more harm.
Fear can lead to a long-term problem, called Anxiety! Some people are more prone to this, and can’t control it, though some people can learn to control it, and in some people it may be preventable, if recognized early! Ask your pediatrician if you have questions!