Fears and phobias are pretty common among children and most of them, if not all, experience these from time to time. As children explore the world around them, come across new experiences and face new challenges, fears and phobias will almost become an inevitable aspect of growing up.
However, before you start to worry that there’s something wrong with your child because of his fears and phobias, you need to relax because these are pretty common at this age. Ultimately, learning to deal with these is an important life lesson— both for you and the child.
Certain fears and phobias are normal at certain ages. For example–
Fear of strangers: Babies have a fear of strangers. Infants as old as 8-9 months can recognize faces that are familiar such as those of their parents, grandparents, and siblings and some other faces they can recognize. When they see a new face or faces, they can get scared and cling to parents as that makes them feel safe.
Fear of separation: Childrenfear separation. When the baby is 1-2 years old, they start to fear to stay alone or away from their parents. They don’t want their parents to leave them anywhere like preschool, some event, relatives’ homes, or even in their bedroom. They may cry and try to be near parents or someone they trust.
Fear of imaginary things: This is something we all have seen and undergone at some point in our lives— the fear of pretended or imaginary things like a monster living under the sofa or bed, something evil lurking around in the dark, fear of height or even fear of water. Children between the ages of 4-6 can imagine several things, which we, as adults feel are trivial, but which children see as real. At this age, children might even be afraid of the rain and thunders.
Fear of real-life incidents: When the children are7 years or older the fear of the monster sitting under the bed or living in the cupboard takes a back seat and real-life incidents such as a death in the family or some natural disasters like earthquakes or flooding are the new fears of children. this is the time when children start reading newspapers or watch TV news and when they hear or see disaster news, they think that such a thing is going to happen around them and cause harm to them and their families. There are other fears like not being able to make friends, not being able to get good grades, or getting emotional about being scolded by teachers, friends, siblings, and parents. Add to this the fear of water and you know why the children are so fearful.
Social fear: This fear affects older children for whom looks and relationships matter a lot. They might get restless about what kind of clothes they are wearing, what are they eating, what brand of pencil/pen they are using, what kind of friends they keep, writing exams or even taking part in extracurricular activities and sports, etc. This fear keeps them from attempting anything new in life.
Over time children grow out of these fears and phobias. You need to keep calm and talk them out of these fears. Just follow these simple steps and see how your child comes out as a winner.
- Recognize fears
The first step to help your child overcome fears and phobias is to recognize what’s bothering them. A child’s expanding world is always filled with fascinating discoveries –sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes unfamiliar. It’s in these scenarios that your child’s fears start. Your child might be thinking that something is watching over him from under the bed, so he refuses to get down the bed at night, even if it’s for something very urgent like drinking water or using the bathroom. He might refuse to pick up the ball from under the bed for the same reason.
- Differentiate fantasy from reality
Most children have difficulty differentiating fantasy from reality and think that the dragon or dinosaur that they saw on the TV or cartoon might be real and will come after them. They think that these things exist in reality. Most children’s books and cartoon series always have good and bad fictional characters—most of these are animals. When children see these animals around them, they get a feeling of fear. You need to talk them out of this fear.
- Spot the early warning sign
Children use a variety of methods to say that they have a fear. While the ones that can speak will say it directly, the ones that don’t have the language skills might just point toward something. However, you need to understand what your child is trying to say and comfort him by telling him that there’s no such thing anywhere in the house.
- Take one step at a time
Children have several fears and phobias going on in their minds at a time and you cannot work on confronting all of these at the same time. You need to work on one fear at a time. Have patience until your child feels comfortable and knows that fears don’t exist. Don’t ignore or avoid any of your child’s fear triggers and they may become big at a later stage.
- Relax and have fun
As mentioned earlier, you need to have patience and tell your child that fears and phobias are just a creation of our mind and we have the power to control it. In order to help your child get rid of these, you can become their role models. Tell them stories about how you got rid of the fears when you were young. It’s also possible that as adults if you have a fear of something, you can start working on those to set an example for your child.
There are several things you can do to help your child overcome fear and phobias, but avoiding them isn’t one of them. To help your child you need to brainstorm plans with your spouse or someone experienced so that the plans work from the word go.