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How to Deal With a Child's Fear of Loud Noises

by Shelley Frost

A sudden clap of thunder, a loud motorcycle, the vacuum cleaner -- any number of loud sounds can make a child jump or feel afraid. That feeling of anxiety or fear often causes physical symptoms, including sweating, increased heart rate and a sick feeling in the stomach. Your child may panic or want to run away from the situation. While unpleasant, that fear also helps your child avoid dangers. Staying away from a loud car speeding down the street keeps him from getting hit, for example. When the fear of loud noises becomes overwhelming, your reaction can help ease the fears.

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.

Talk to your child when you anticipate the potential for loud noises. If you take him to a Civil War reenactment, 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.

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."

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.

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?"

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 favorite stuffed animal to cuddle during a thunderstorm.

Warning

  • Never make fun of your child's fear or get angry at him for feeling afraid of sounds. Fear and anxiety are normal, so you don't want to punish him for those natural feelings. A negative approach won't help him get over his fear of loud sounds any faster.

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