Infancy: Emerging fears of strangers and separation from parents
Toddler: Fears of monsters, weather, dark places & big, often hairy animals
School age: Isolation, kidnappers & thieves
Adolescence: Adult-like fears such as gangs, guns, and now, terrorism and natural disasters
Parents can help their children deal with these fears before they turn into phobias. Here are some practical steps to take in helping children deal with fears:
Model appropriate behavior: Children learn a lot from watching their parents. Model appropriate ways to handle fears by staying calm & taking intentional steps to work through your own anxieties.
Don’t overreact, yet don’t ignore them either: Parents should offer support. Try to maintain your routine as much as possible. Routine helps children feel secure. Be cautious not to transfer your own fears to your child.
Let them know it is okay to be afraid: Even adults get scared at times. Using a night light, playing soft music at bedtime and avoiding scary movies are all practical techniques.
Talk to your child and encourage them to open up: Calm discussions about your child’s fears is always a good way to encourage positive thoughts.
Avoid activities that can scare your child, but don’t overprotect: As your child matures & becomes more emotionally secure, he will begin to work through fears as you provide guidance. Recognize his fears are real to him so be cautious of minimizing them. Instead help him work through the process so he will build his confidence for the future.
Praise non-anxious behavior: Parents should praise their children when they exhibit responsibility and independence.
Teach ways to relax: Parents can teach their children ways to relax such as playing outside, reading a book together, and listening to soft music.
Most fears in children are a very normal part of development. If parents have tried everything they know to help their child deal with their fears and they begin to interfere with everyday life, parents should seek professional help.
Talk to your pediatrician, child’s teacher, or call PAL at 1-866-962-3030!