Our culture is big on scary movies.
Halloween just went by and there were days of scary movies to pick from on television.
Some people find fear amusing, but what about children that don’t?
How can we help our children manage and even overcome fears?
When it comes to children and experiencing fear, it is helpful to understand what is age appropriate first:
Newborns dislike being in presence or being touched by strangers.
Toddlers usually experience some separation anxiety. Even if they never complained about you leaving the room, it may start all of a sudden.
Children 3 to 8 may experience fear of unreal things, such as ghosts and monsters, as well as of loud noises, bright lights, or unknown objects.
At around 7 until 12, children become afraid of catastrophic events, worrying about what would happen if a specific situation arose that can affect you as a parent, as well as the child.
Knowing the baseline of what are normal fears child experience can prepare us as parents to know how to react.
Here are 6 tips on what to do if your child is experiencing fear:
Validate your child’s feelings. Even if you don’t relate to their fear, express understanding. Here is an example: “It can be very scary to talk in front of a whole class.” Simply acknowledging the fear, and talking about it, can help the child overcome it.
Avoid minimizing their fear. Statements like: “You are silly to be afraid of that,” or, “Don’t be ridiculous” undermine the child’s experience and may result in your child internalizing the fear negatively.
Provide physical safety but giving affection, such as a hug. Physical touch from the parent is another way children feel safety, reducing the feeling of fear.
Help make sense of the fear. Have a conversation with your child where you discuss what the fear is about. This should be followed with brainstorming on how to minimize the fear. Start by asking: “What can we do about this? For example, for fear of the dark, asking this questions may lead to considering a nightlight, sleeping with a stuffed animal, or a favorite blanket. Another way of doing this is by getting children’s books that talk about the topic your child is fearful of. Nowadays, there is a child story about almost any topic.
Help your child use positive affirmations, such as “I can do this” or “I got this.”
Help your child work through the fears. This means not avoiding what the child is fearful about. If your child is afraid of the dark, a nightlight is an option, reading until the child falls asleep, praying, counting sheep are valid options to help overcome the fear by being in the presence of “the dark,” in this case, the fear at hand.
It is also important to recognize the signs of when a child is experiencing fear versus anxiety.
If your child is experiences a combination of the following symptoms, he or she might require some external help from a counselor to improve coping of the fears. These are the symptoms:
clinginess, impulsivity, or distractibility
sleeping pattern changes such as sleeping too little, waking up at night, or sleeping too much
nervous movements, such as temporary twitches
accelerated heart rate and breathing
nausea, headaches, or stomachaches
Your Therapy Friend,
Local Mom Scoop is excited to have Sofia Robirosa, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services contributing to Local Mom Scoop.
She has this knack for always writing about relatable parenting topics that I feel most of us are going through.
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Sofia Robirosa, MBA, LMFT, CAP.