Everybody is afraid of something or the other. Some children are afraid of the dark, others hate nightmares and scary movies and then there are those who want to run away from mean dogs, snakes, and creepy crawlies. Parents teach their children to be fearful and cautious of dangers like fire or crossing the road. In these situations parents teach their children to protect them from harming themselves. However, children can be fearful of situations or objects that adults don’t find threatening. The sources of fear may change as the child matures.
Don’t tease the child for being afraid or force them to confront frightening situations. Many of kids’ fears seem irrational, but to them the world is full of threats. Most fears fade as kids grow, but if your child’s fear persists and totally preoccupies him, you will have to help him overcome it. Bedtime should be a special and memorable part of a child’s day, but if your child is afraid of monsters under the bed it can be anything but peaceful. When it’s time to turn out the lights, your child might start experiencing fear and anxiety, turning bedtime routine into a stressful experience for the entire family.
Two and three year olds are creatures of habit. Any unfamiliar sight or sound can send them into a panic. Even though they are aware of their environment, they don’t yet understand everything that happens in it.
Four and five year olds begin to understand abstract concepts, so their fears become more complex. They are scared of what they can see and of what lurks in their imagination. Preschoolers still have a hard time distinguishing fact from fantasy.
Older children realize that bad things do happen sometimes, what they don’t yet understand is the probability of a scary event rocking their world. But they don’t get a sense of perspective because they often hear about these things from their friends or see them on the news. These fears happen if there is genetic susceptibility, if they have at least one anxious parent, due to overprotective parenting or if the child has experienced stressful events. Here are some ways you can help your children overcome their fears:
Learn the difference between a fear and a phobia and recognize what your child has – People often use the words fear and phobia interchangeably, but the two problems are very different. If your kid is afraid of water, for example, he may cry at bath time, but you can usually coax him into the tub. But a child who has a phobia about water might become hysterical just hearing you turn on the tap. About 3 to 5 percent of kids will develop a phobia, an intense, excessive fear that lasts longer than a few months, grows out of proportion, and affects the child’s ability to function. Common child phobias include animals, insects, water, storms, darkness, and getting hurt. If your child has developed a phobia, talk to your pediatrician or a child psychologist who specializes in treating phobias. Whatever happens, don’t ignore the problem or assume your child will grow out of it, since it may just get worse.
Consider their feelings but don’t reassure their doubts – Don’t try to reassure your child by checking in the cupboard or under the bed as this may suggest to the child that you believe monsters could be there. Childhood fears are very normal, and it’s important to be respectful of your child’s feelings. Going overboard by checking in every drawer for monsters will only backfire by spinning the qualm out of proportion. Avoid playing into the anxiety by briefly empathizing, then telling your child you have confidence they can overcome it.
Encourage them to talk about their fears and anxieties – Ask them to tell you about their fears and what exactly makes them afraid. This helps you understand what exactly is your child thinking which can guide you to help them in the right way.
Be understanding – Show your child that you understand their fears, but that you don’t necessarily share them.
Show them they are safe – Reassure them that they are safe, explain that there are no such things as monsters. If your child is afraid of the dark because they think there could be intruders, show them the security measures around the house, like locks. But also teach them never lock a deadlock while people are inside the house, as it may block escape in a fire or other emergency.
Conquer the fear – If your child has had a frightful experience they can conquer it with a little guidance from you.
Ask them for suggestions – Ask your child for suggestions on what would make them feel more secure. Offer them some suggestions. Perhaps they would feel better if they took a special toy or comforter to bed. Start with your child’s suggestions and gradually work your way through until your child is confronting their fear and getting over it. Especially, if he has had a bad experience in the past getting over it could take some time, but their newfound confidence will help them overcome it.
Every child is afraid of something or the other the best thing you can do is to be supportive of their fears and help them overcome it. Children often need help and support from their parents to overcome their fears and anxieties and the best way you can help your child is by being more understanding of their fear and not mock them for it. If you mock them you might lose their trust altogether. So be supportive and understanding and you will be good to go.