As children grow, discover new things, and increase their range of interactions, they are likely to come across scary situations that cause them to be afraid. When children are fearful, they tend to be timid, stubborn, aggressive, or inflexible. Many parents who notice their discomfort usually allow their child to back away from whatever is scaring them, without necessarily trying to address the situation.
It is normal for children to avoid things they fear. But avoidance prevents them from learning something and overcoming some irrational fears. Here are some ideas to help your child get over his/her fears:
- Recognize and respect your child’s fears
While children’s fears may seem irrational to you, they are real to them. So, don’t laugh or ignore your children’s fears. Eventually they will grow out of most fears. But until then, you should teach them how to cope with their fears. These skills will prove to be helpful for the rest of their life.
- Spend time with your children when they are afraid
If your child is scared of sleeping alone, spending time in the dark, or during storms, giving them special attention can help to calm those fears. Spend time with your children until they calm down or until whatever is causing them to be afraid passes. During this time, you can do something fun like reading them a story or singing to comfort them.
- Encourage them to talk about feeling scared
Teach your children to talk about their concerns and feelings, including fears. You will also be able to identify cues for when they are afraid, like biting their fingernails, fidgeting, sucking their thumb, or whining. Encourage them to talk about their fears, preferably using play. You can encourage them to use things like puppets, stories, dolls, or art to act out their fears. Such activities calm them down and give them a sense of control.
- Help them learn about things they’re afraid of
Children love routines because they know what to expect, giving them a sense of control. Similarly, teaching your children about things that scare them, such as lightning, thunder, pets, and other things helps them deal better with their fear.
- Make suggestions for coping with fear
Also let your child know that it is not bad to be afraid of some things, and teach them how to cope with them. For instance, the child who’s afraid of the dark can sleep with the door slightly open, while one who’s scared of bad incidents on the news can skip TV during certain times. Also talk about your fears and how you deal with them so they can relate.
Lastly, it is important to recognize your child’s fears and their moments of courage, as well. Commend them for their brave attempts; expose them to settings or situations that give them a chance to overcome their fears.