Help Your Child to Overcome Fear - 10 tips for Parents

Children are unpredictable. In the early days of their lives they are like fearless, valiant explorers. They go boldly into the great unknown. Then overnight these brave warriors become scared of their own shadows, having fears at some point in their life and it is usually considered to be a normal part of development. But when they develop the most irrational fears and they are scared of the most harmless things. These fears are only abnormal if they are persistent or keep the child overly preoccupied with the subject that is feared.

We have to understand that your child’s early fearlessness stems from the fact that ignorance is delight. What they don’t know can’t hurt them. This is why the same child that cheerfully put his hand between the jaws of a dog, will later run away screaming at the sight of a barking dog. Somewhere along the way he has learnt that dogs can bite. As the child grows older, his imagination and curiosity develop side by side. 

Toddlers normally have simple fears of separation, noises, falling, animals and insects, using the potty, bathing and bedtime. Fears among preschool age children include simple fears of animals and insects, monsters and ghosts, getting lost, divorce, loss of a parent and bedtime.

Fear of the dark is one of the most common childhood fears. This is also a fear that adults can most easily identify with. If your child is scared of the dark you can indulge his by leaving his bedroom door open or leaving a night light on. Keep him well occupied with games and other activities throughout the day so that he has no time to brood on his fears. In time, he will realize that there is nothing to fear.
 Sometimes children develop fears of real world objects like dogs, cockroaches, the water etc. It is not necessary for the child to have had a frightening experience with any of the objects of their fears. This is a good chance that dragging your screaming child towards a dog or throwing his into a swimming pool is going to backfire. Children most often outgrow these fears themselves. Sometimes they find that acting out the fear, like mashing a stuffed toy dog, is therapeutic. 

Here are few tips to help your child:

*  Respect your child's feelings and fears. It is not helpful to use put downs, such as 'your being a baby for being afraid of that,' or to try and ignore the things that he is afraid of.

* Ask Questions If you're noticing a tinge of fear from your child, Ask open-ended questions that allow your child to explore his emotions. Ask things like, "How does that make you feel?" rather than, "Does that make you scared?"  You want to open a dialogue. Really encourage him to discuss his concerns.

* Don't be overprotective and let him avoid all of the things that he is afraid of, but you also don't want to try and force your child into doing something he is afraid to do.

*  Listen Along with asking questions, be willing to listen. You won't want to patronize him with comments like, "You're just being silly." Really take the time to validate how he's feeling and practice active listening. This is the process when you listen intently, repeat what the person has said so that they know you understand them, then add what you wish to say.

* Don't overreact, so that your extra attention reinforces your child's reactions.

* Be Truthful, But Gentle Give answers that are age appropriate for your child. You know what your child can handle. You also want to avoid giving so much information that they panic. I want my child to know that other people are suffering. It's real and it's important. But I don't want his to know all the gruesome details.

* Give your child support as he learns to master his fears. For example, if your child is afraid of starting a new school, you should be empathetic by saying things like 'I know you are scared of starting a new school and you are probably worried about making new friends, but I think you will feel much better once you get started' .It may also be helpful to model or role play how to go up to and introduce himself to new people.

*  Make a Plan Sometimes, the very act of making a plan puts the entire fear at ease. If your child starts panicking, practice active listening, then follow it with something like, "Remember, we've been preparing, so we don't need to worry like that anymore." Worrying never did anything anyway.

* Again, reassure and comfort your child as you help him to face his fears. In the long run, it is also not helpful to teach your child that it is alright to avoid everything that he is afraid of.

*  A positive approach: Always keep in mind that while you may not understand the child’s fear, it is very real to him. Ridiculing the fear or chastising your child for being a coward is not going to make the situation any better. Encourage his to talk about his fear. You must instill confidence in him by assuring his that nothing bad is going to happen and that you are right by his side. While it is important to be sympathetic, do not overdo it. Your child may get the message that his fears are justified

If the fears are interrupting his development or daily activities, then you should seek professional treatments from a child psychologist.

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