Do you have a child who’s scared of the dark? Has an irrational fear of water? Totally loses it when a dog comes within 10 metres? Believes there are monsters under the bed? Screams at the sight of a bug on the footpath? Before you start to worry that these mystifying fears indicate there’s something ‘wrong’ with your child, rest assured childhood fears such as these are a completely normal part of their development. Ultimately, learning to deal with fear is an important life lesson.
Fear is something that always happens, to all people, in their whole life, but fear comes with kinds of degrees. Your child may be battling fears, but that doesn’t mean you should be worrying too. Here’s how to help tackle what’s scaring them.
Fears paralyze children. If your child has one fear or many, keep reading. Find out what you can do. Fear in children is normal. But when your child surrenders to imagined fears, you need to help.
More often than not, our kids’ fears aren’t entirely rational but what they’re feeling, along with their physiological reaction to it, is very real indeed.
Take comfort in the fact your child will grow out of these fears. In the meantime, here are few things you can do to make the transition just that little bit easier for your little person:
- Be patient. Like parents of children who fear the dark, you must take tiny steps. Don’t force your child to confront their fears before they’re ready. Remember, while the fear may be totally mystifying to you, it’s still very real to them. Instead, be patient, empathetic and let them confront their own fears at their own pace.
- Lead by example. Do you have a fear of your own? Perhaps you’re afraid of heights or don’t like being stuck in crowds … Sometimes the best way to teach your child how to overcome their fear is to ‘show’ them how it’s done. Lead by example and put yourself in situations where your child can witness how you navigate your way through your fears calmly and confidently … If Mum or Dad can do it, so can they!
- Answer their questions. Encourage your child to ask you any questions they like and do your best to answer them in gentle, age-appropriate ways. If you don’t know all the answers, research them together at the library or online.
- Take It Step By Step. It’s tempting to avoid your child’s terror triggers, but doing so can make them seem even bigger. Instead, help your child get used to a scary situation in increments. For example, if your child shrieks at the sight of your neighbor’s dog, maybe he can watch him from a window before saying hello from a safe perch on Dad’s shoulders. You can also “preview” a potentially surprising situation by talking about it (“When we push the handle, the toilet sucks the water with a loud ‘swoosh’ and then fills again”).
- Focus on Fun. Playful approaches can go a long way toward reducing anxieties. If your child is afraid of the dark, read bedtime stories by flashlight, or buy glow-in-the-dark toys and devise a scavenger hunt. If she’s worried about a monster under her bed, ask her to give him a makeover: Drawing the creature making a silly face could help her feel less afraid.