Overcoming fears isn't easy. Especially if you're a kid. One child may fear the dark while another may be scared of heights or loud noises—or even monsters. No matter the specifics, feelings of fear are very real to a child.
So, as a first step in helping children in overcoming fears, talk to them about what’s so frightening. ChildMind.org suggests questions like these when a child is scared of dogs:
- What makes dogs so scary?
- Are all dogs frightening or just a certain one?
- Has a dog ever surprised you in a scary way?
Once you’ve gained clarity about what’s frightening your child, validate their feelings. Let your children know you’re taking them—and their fears—seriously (even when the object of the fear doesn’t seem very scary to you).
Then, move on from the subject. Otherwise, the comfort you’re providing may become something your child desires and can “take on a life of its own.”
Overcoming Fears Starts With Facing Them
Although it can be tempting to avoid places and situations that your child finds to be scary, this can be counterproductive. According to PsychCentral.com, this could suggest there really is something to be anxious about—something you believe your child can’t handle.
Instead, manage the focus of fear in incremental ways. For example, you can read a book about the dark or introduce the child to a small, calm, friendly dog. Then, take additional steps like these to help your child deal with the object of the fear. This can provide your child with the coping skills needed to deal with scary situations.
Praise your child’s efforts as they face a fear, Understood.org recommends. This sends the message that it’s progress that matters, instilling a mindset of growth.
Create A Phrase For Anxiousness
You can also work with your child to create a phrase to use when feeling anxious. This can include something like, “I can handle this,” or “I will be okay.” You can also teach relaxation strategies, including deep breathing. You can suggest that, when anxieties arise, your child can imagine lying on a sunny beach or floating on a cloud.
You can read age-appropriate books together about overcoming fears. For example, Franklin in the Dark by Paulette Bourgeois can be ideal for toddlers and preschoolers. In this book, Franklin discovers that most fears can be easily solved, learning this after meeting animals with other fears: of water, heights, loud noises, and so forth.
Kids in the younger elementary school grades could benefit from reading Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. In this book, when loud thunder booms, Grandma recommends making a cake—a Thunder Cake—that distracts young Patricia as they need to collect a long, hard-to-find list of ingredients. This strategy helped Patricia overcome her fear of thunder.
A Word About Phobias
In some cases, children’s fears will not fade when these strategies are used. Sometimes, children are actually experiencing phobias: an intense fear. Your pediatrician can rule out any physical causes for the exaggerated fear and may recommend a child psychiatrist to help further.
The staff at Horizon Education Centers is prepared to help you help your child overcome their fears. Our professionally-trained teachers and administrators will do everything possible to provide your child with the best possible coping skills they need to conquer their fears. To learn more about the programs that we offer, please visit our website or contact us today.