A certain amount of fear is healthy and understandable. It keeps us and our children out of harm’s way. We teach our children to fear running into a busy street, accepting candy from strangers, swallowing unidentified substances from the medicine cabinet, etc. We are, in essence, teaching them caution, which is quite different from dealing with a youngster who is responding to an imaginary rather than a real danger. Here are some common childhood fears, and ways to go about handling them.
Fear of the dark
Generally, fear of the dark occurs when the parents insist that the child stay in a totally darkened room at bedtime or when the child wakes up in the middle of the night. Some children are so terrified by the dark that their heartbeats actually increase. Parents need to recognize that the room looks totally different to the child when the lights are out, and should take steps to reassure the youngster even if the fear seems completely irrational to the parents.
Fear of the dentist.
Clearly, for adults, this is often an unresolved fear from childhood, since so many adults are fearful of going to the dentist. It is usually provoked in children because they feel they have no control over the situation. It’s a fact of life that children do need to go to the dentist at regular intervals, so their fear must be dealt with and overcome.
Perhaps the kindest thing parents can do when dealing with a child’s fears is to admit their own childhood fears, especially if the parents had similar fears when they were children. The parents can indicate that they understand just how devastating such fears can be and that they stand ready to reassure and comfort whenever the child feels a need.
Regardless of the child’s age, basic strategies for helping children cope with fears and phobias are similar:
Text and photo courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission.