For many children, Halloween isn’t the only day when “scary” things roam. In fact, most – if not all – kids are afraid of something, such as spiders and other bugs. Some children don’t want to be near dogs or cats. Fear of the dark is common; and what about the dreaded trip to the doctor or dentist?
As your children get older, their fears will likely disappear. While that’s a comfort to most parents, it’s not much help for the kids. We’ve put together a list of tips that other moms and dads have found helpful for overcoming fear in children
• Understand that a child’s fear is real. For many parents, a child’s fear can seem unfounded. After all, how could your little one possibly be afraid of a puppy? Or loud noises? Or Santa Claus? As silly as it may seem from an adult’s perspective, a child’s fears are very real and, in many cases, are genuine feelings of anxiety. With that in mind, don’t ridicule a child who shows fear of something that you don’t fear, and never say “You’re acting like a baby” or “When are you going grow up and act like a big boy or girl?” This won’t help your child overcome fears, but it will lower their self-esteem.
• Watch what your children watch. Television is filled with a lot of scary images and themes for young children. For example, police shows and other kinds of dramas often portray robberies, murders, beatings, and other violence. News shows also can have stories on shootings, abductions, car crashes, burning buildings and other “scary” events. By being careful about what your child watches, you may be able to nip potential fears before they develop.
• It’s OK to talk. Sometimes it can help to talk with children when they feel afraid. Ask them to tell you what they think is going to happen, then wait to see what actually happens. For example, if a dog walks by and your child starts crying and clinging to you, ask your child what he or she thinks the dog will do. Most likely, your child may be afraid of being bitten by the dog. In that case, it might be a good idea for you to walk past the dog alone, so your child can see that the dog didn’t bite you. If your child is afraid of the dark, ask why. If your child talks about monsters in the closet or under the bed, go into the room alone and have your child turn off the lights. After a short while, have them come into the room so that you can experience the dark together. After a while, this may help your child overcome fear – and become more comfortable being alone in the dark.
• Don’t cater to your child’s fears. In the example above about the dog, some parents would have grabbed their child and run away from the dog. While this may help avoid a child’s crying and clinging, it also reinforces the idea that your child should run away from dogs, too. In order to overcome fear in children, you have to first stand up against it as a parent, and then show your child that they can, too.
• Keep a regular routine. According to the Department of Child Development and Family Studies at Purdue University, children feel safe when they know what to expect. “It helps some children to know that it is mom who takes them to childcare in the morning; children know that there will be a story every night before bed. Children feel better when they know what will happen.” Keeping a routine for certain “scary” activities may help the child adjust more easily to the situation.