Childhood Fears are a normal part of child development and if handled correctly, can be a very useful learning tool for your child. Many people do not handle childhood fears in the right way, and it can lead to irrational adult fears, and high stress in the child later in life. Here are some tips to make sure that you handle your child’s fears in a positive way.
Probably the most common error made by parents of children with fears is to not realize that the fear is a very real experience to a child. Children do not have the same experiences that we have as adults, and often cannot see that a fear is irrational. Remember that childhood fear is very real and very traumatic for your child. Show patience and understanding above all.
Many parents try to shame the fear out of their child by telling them “big boys/girls aren’t afraid of the dark”, etc…. This serves only to alienate the child, and make them feel inadequate. Rather than using the shame technique, try empathy instead. Explain to the child that the dark can be scary sometimes, and that you understand. Then play a game involving the dark to show the child that the dark can be fun also. Try to use actions rather than words in dealing with your child’s fears. They do not want to hear that their fear is not real. They want to see why there is nothing to fear instead.
Allow your child to face their fear at the pace that is comfortable for them. Pushing a child to face a fear can backfire in a big way. Allowing the child to do so at his own pace is vital and it also will help them feel like they are in control. A lack of control is at the root of many childhood fears to begin with, so this is why it works so well. Be a support to your child in every way possible and be patient. You must allow your child to go through the steps of this fear. He will learn valuable coping strategies from this, and it will be worth it in the long run.
Finally, you simply must pay attention to the outside influences on your child’s life. Children are literal in thought and understanding. They tend to believe what they hear, and if the message is scary, then this can create childhood fears as well. Simple, innocent remarks can be very scary to a literal thinking child. “I could just pinch your cheeks right off,” can take on a whole new meaning to a child that thinks you intend to do just that. Television shows are another source of childhood fears that can really be damaging. Pay attention, and try to limit the outside stressors such as these. With some patience and understanding, you will see your child grow to be a confident, healthy young man/woman.