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Fear of landscapers or other noisy equipment

Question:
My child is afraid of the landscapers and their noisy equipment at his school. How can I help him not be afraid of this?

My Opinion:
It sounds to me like your son is afraid because he does not know what these people do with this noisy equipment while he is inside and canít watch them, and he knows he canít run away very fast, so he is afraid because he canít watch them and he does not know what they are doing, and it is noisy and scary. So I think you need to show him what they do, and when they do it, but you need to lead into it first, so he will at least watch and not freak out before you even get there.

If you have your own yard or access to neighbors or grandparents etc who do, start here.

You or your husband or grandpa or whoever, get out the lawnmower and other equipment [borrow neighbors if you donít have your own], even if your lawn does not need mowing. Have your son watch from INSIDE the house, preferably with one of his parents with him. Explain what all the equipment is for, maybe also using toy equipment that he can use too. Watch parent start lawnmower, mow lawn, turn off mower, empty bag into trash, etc. Use blower or whatever power tools you also have. After this is all done, bring son outside to look at equipment and inspect the work, but donít force it. Then put it all away.

If you donít have own yard, start here. Otherwise, continue here.

Drive around one morning in the next few days with son in your car, find a commercial landscaping group working on a park or office complex or something. Park car and watch the work from close enough to see and hear, but far enough away that it is not scary. Watch the entire process, until they leave. Then get out of car and walk around where they were working, but donít push it if son is very scared.

Before the weekend, call school, tell school your son will NOT be attending on Monday, but he will be there with you on the grounds, and you expect school to cooperate with you. Also ask for the name and phone number of landscaping group which works at the school. Call them and ask what time they generally start on the schoolís property, and how much time it generally takes. Tell them you will be there watching with a small child who is afraid of their work. Ask them to do the work as usual, then maybe ask one of the workers to come up to your son after it is all finished, and just say hello.

Then you get to the school on Monday with your son, preferably BEFORE the workers get there. While you are driving there, explain that you will NOT be going into the school today, you will be watching the landscapers just like you watched them before at the other place. Your son may still freak out, hopefully not too much. You can park and watch from the car, but it is better to find a place outside the car but close to the car, and close enough to the work to see and hear, but far enough away that none of the noisy equipment will get close to you and your son. Set up there, maybe a blanket or lawn chairs, if he has a sibling or grandma or dog or other cooperative pet, that would be good too. I donít know where you live but hopefully the weather will be good enough for this.

Then watch the landscapers arrive, wave hello at them. They will get out their equipment, you can point out each piece from your safe place. Tell him when it will start to get noisy, you can cover his ears for him if he would like that. Watch the work. If he wants to move farther away or get back into the car, that is okay. But you want him to watch THE ENTIRE PROCESS, UNTIL THEY LEAVE. Hopefully before they leave, one of the workers will come up and say hi to him. Otherwise you can ask your son if he wants to say hi to the men before they leave. If not, that is okay. Wave goodbye to them when they leave. Then after they leave, wait a few minutes, ask your son what he thought about the work, yes or no questions if he does not talk, like "was it scary", "which piece of equipment was noisiest or most scary, was it the lawnmower", stuff like that. Then say you want your son to help you "inspect the work", to see if they did a good job etc. Walk around. Look at how the grass/bushes is nicer now th an before, etc. Find anything that looks like the workers "missed a spot" and try to get your son to notice it "on his own". Laugh and say he would make a better landscaper than the workers.

Remind your son that they have left and they are not coming back until the next week. That means all the way thru the next weekend. They will not be there again until you tell him they will be there again.

Even if he freaked out the entire time, tell him he was a very good boy to watch all this with you. Now you GO SOMEWHERE FUN, he does not have to go into school. Go to his favorite park, or maybe just to the swings at the school, go visit his dad at work, go to grandmaís house, anywhere but school, and make sure it is fun.

The evening before the next school day, tell him "tomorrow you go to school, but we already watched the landscapers, they donít come tomorrow, they donít come until all the way past the next weekend." Promise him you will tell him exactly what day they will come next. Then that morning, remind him again how he already inspected the work, and they are not coming back that day. Donít expect him to be 100% cooperative, he will probably still be nervous, but hopefully better than before.

Get to school a little early. Park in the same place you parked in when you watched the landscapers. Show your son that they are not there, and the work is already done like it was the other day. If you can do this and it would help him, tell him you will sit and wait in the same spot and make sure they are not coming that day. Then you need to wait there, because he will look for you if he has the chance. Find his teacher and tell her, without your son hearing, that you want her to tell you something he did WELL that day, even if she has to really think about it to find something he did well. Then when you pick him up, she needs to tell you while your son is listening. Make a big deal over this, and bring him to a fun place to celebrate what a good boy he was, preferably the SAME fun place you went to after you watched the landscapers on Monday. Each school day until the next Monday, remind your son the landscapers are NOT coming that day.

The next weekend, get out the mower or drive around to the same commercial place, and do this again. Tell him you are watching again, because the landscapers will be at the school again. Then the next Monday morning, arrive again before the landscapers get there, watch them arrive, and tell your son they will be doing exactly the same thing they did the previous time. Ask him if he wants to watch again, or is it okay if he goes into the school this time and does his art projects or whatever else is fun, rather than watching them do the same thing all over again. Whatever he wants to do, do it, but this time, if he wants to watch, after they leave you can tell him "okay, they are gone now, so letís go inside the school and see what the other kids are doing now", or if school is over, just take him home, no fun place this time, just home.

You should not have to do this more than just this one more time. The third time, he should want to just go to his class, he should not need to watch them at all. If he does want to watch tho, I would let him watch one more time [3 times total]. Then the next Sunday evening, just tell him "okay we watched already two [or three] times, they do the same thing every time, so tomorrow we will just wave at them and then go into the school." The first time he will probably be nervous, but he should be okay. You can volunteer to watch from outside and "just be sure they are doing it exactly like all the other times", if that would help him. But then you do have to stay there, because he will be watching for you.

If you try this and it does not work for him, let me know what he did after you tried it, or whatever else you tried, and I can try to think of something else for you to try.


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