My almost three-year-old son’s room, as well as our sleeping room, is equipped with a smoke detector. A few weeks ago, the one in our sleeping room went off and was beeping very loudly for ten seconds while he was in the room. There was no apparent reason for this (probably an insect, cosmic radiation or an act of Loki) and this was the only such event in the year we had those detectors.
A week later, he started being afraid of smoke detectors. Symptoms include:
- He does not wish to enter our room. If he does, he often starts hiding on the bed under the blanket. He also avoids his own room sometimes .
- He tells stories about smoke detectors being loud and evil.
- He apparently suffers from nightmares involving smoke detectors, but he cannot communicate what he experienced.
- When going to bed, he sometimes insists on one of us staying in the room and sleeps only with his hands put over his ears (to dampen the sound), which in turn makes it more difficult for him to fall asleep.
He has overcome similar irrational fears before, but this time the nature of his fears makes it quite difficult to address the issue with explanation, demonstration, and trust:
The concept of a smoke detector is already quite difficult to explain to him, though he seems to have understood it. But it’s seems to be beyond his grasp that there is a small probability that a smoke detector raises a false alert (of course, we explained it in less abstract terms).
As he is afraid of the possibility of the smoke detector making a sound, we cannot demonstrate that it is harmless in this respect. If we take the smoke detector off the ceiling, he agrees to hold it in his hands.
As one smoke detector did actually go off (and caused harm in form of noise), we are less convincing when assuring him that they are harmless.
While his fears have not yet reached a worrisome extent, I would be curious about other ways to tackle this issue. I prefer answers that do not involve lying or dismantling the smoke detectors as I want to support him dealing with his fears not just remove the symptoms.