Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fear...what to do when your child is afraid.

Image result for fear childhood

 Spiders, scary things under the bed, getting lost, getting hurt, the dark, having to eat green vegetables, getting in trouble, clowns, falling, the doctor, the dentist, bad guys, thunderstorms, dogs, snakes, scary movies, nightmares, getting sick, hurricanes, war, fires, falling, failing, being alone.....the list goes on and on.

Children can be afraid of many things and as loving parents we try to reassure them:  "Oh, there's nothing to be afraid of.  It's only your imagination"  "I won't let anything happen to you."  and so on.  Often our reassurances may not work.  So what can we do?
If the child has many fears giving them opportunities to control the fear may be helpful.  For example if your child is afraid of the dark, giving them a small flashlight on their night table allows them to control the situation by turning on the light when they feel afraid.  Afraid of spiders?  Books about spiders may help.  We are generally less fearful of that which we understand and are familiar with.  Let the child choose when to look at the picture.  Gradually we can introduce looking at a real spider in a jar or at the zoo.
Exposure to media can bring violence, war, injustice and hatred into a child's world before he or she is mature enough to understand.  It is important to not allow a young child to be in the room while these topics are discussed, news is on the television or video games are being played that are inappropriate.  As your child matures gradually introducing the news by watching or reading along with them will decrease fear and worry.  Children under 6 or 7 are to young to understand these complex issues.
Giving information about weather (thunder is just a noise) and reading books about weather,  animals, visiting the doctor or dentist, how firefighters keep us safe and many other topics will help your child to understand and feel informed and protected.  Public libraries have many good non-fiction books on these topics.
Around age 4 many children become aware of death.  Perhaps a pet has died or a relative has passed away.  This is a difficult topic for adults as well.  One book I have found very helpful is Lifetimes: The Beautiful way to Explain Death to Children by Boyan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen.  The book explains that every living thing has a beginning, and ending and in between is life.  It is comforting to know that this is the cycle of life.
Another tip is to limit our warnings unless they are essential:  "Be careful.  You might fall."  "Don't ride your bike so fast."  Ask yourself if this warning is really necessary.  Are we overprotecting?  Taking some risks helps children  to learn their own limits, to know when to pull back, and when to challenge themselves.
Fear is a normal human emotion.  It can prevent us from taking dangerous risks but it can also limit our experiences.  Helping children to understand their fears will free them up to explore and get to know the world in a safe way.