HOW DO I HELP DEAL
WITH MY CHILD'S FEARS?
Fear is the most basic emotion and normal part of
development. All children will have fear of some kind at some point in their life. These
fears are normal and part of growing up and basic survival instinct. Eg you do not expect
a child NOT to be afraid of darkness. Children going to school normally have fears of
separation from mother/ caretaker, new faces/ surroundings (especially starting school),
injury while playing and another child bullying.
One must act
- if these fears are irrational
- if they persist for too long
- if the child is overly preoccupied with the subject that is
feared, severely inhibiting childs day-to-day functioning
- if the child can not be distracted away from the fear
- if child can not be reassured
Whether or not a fear is irrational depends on a child's
age and developmental level. For example, it is normal for a 1 year old to be afraid of
being alone with strangers, but it would be irrational for a 5 year old to have the same
Some children have a triggering event leading to fear. Eg near drowning/ seeing some one
drown leading to fear of water; being bitten once giving fear of animals etc
Some children are more fearful than others and this is usually due to the type of
temperament. Also, children who have parents that are very anxious, fearful or who tend to
overreact to things, often have children who have the same reactions in similar
Tips on helping your child get over his fears:
Talk to him about his fear. Ask why is he afraid? This can be especially helpful if there
was a triggering event.
- Never try to demean your child because of his fears. Never
laugh or joke about his fears. Respect his feelings and fears. It does not help to use put
down words, such as its time you grew up 'you are being a baby by
getting afraid of that,' or ignoring the things that he is afraid of.
- Don't be overprotective and make him avoid all the things
that he is scared of. At the same time don't try and force your child into doing things he
is afraid to do.
- Don't overreact. Your extra attention reinforces your
- Lend support as he learns to master his fears. For example,
if your child is afraid of changing to a new school, you should be empathetic. Before he
shows his fears, you should say 'I know you are scared of the new school and worried about
making new friends, but I am sure you will feel much better once you get started'.
- If he is scared of not making new friends remind him that
he has always made friends before and provide encouragement. It will definitely help to
model or role play on how to go up to strangers and introduce himself.
- Remind him of times in past that he was afraid and for
which he no longer has fears.
- At the risk being repetitive, reassure and comfort your
child as you help him to face his fears.
When to seek professional help?
When a fear seems like turning into a phobia, with your
child not responding to repeated reassurances or not being able to be distracted away from
the fear, especially if the fears are interrupting his development or daily activities,
then you should seek professional treatments from a child psychologist.
When your child is bullied?
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