Helping with Childhood Fears

A learned and much needed sense of fear can be a strong first defense against threats, but when a child views the world as a scary place, something has gone awry. The cold hard fact that yes, there are some hurtful beings in existence who do intend harm upon children can often overshadow the decent, kind folks that still exist. Parents may stress their cautionary tales to the point that their child develops an irrational fear of certain situations. While water safety is a vitally important area of concern for parents, explaining the threat can be the difference between a cautious appreciation of the water’s power and outright terror at the sight of a bath. An explanation that water can be very deep and dangerous is much more understandable to a child than vague references to the deaths it has caused.

Overly cautious parenting can lead the child to experience intense anxiety when faced with the world. If every stranger is to be seen as a threat, when a child gets disoriented a few racks away from mom at the mall, they will be much more frightened than if they understand that some people are nice while others are not. Taking the time to explain things to a child is the greatest way to help them find a comfortable medium between blind trust of the world and the skittish, fearful anxiety that they may feel. Honestly answering any questions your child brings to you can help them feel secure. If they understand things, they are less likely to fear them. Should they see something on the news that is distressing to them, explain as much as you can about it to help them understand it. Go to the library and do research together if need be. Knowledge can be a strong weapon in the face of fear.

Preparation can be a family activity; putting together a tornado preparedness kit and going over what to do before a storm comes can ease a child’s mind by letting them know what to expect. Disaster preparedness can also bring up new fears for children. In learning the things to do in case of a fire, fears of fire may come up. It’s natural to be concerned about these sort of things, but by explaining how carefulness can keep fire away, this gives the child a way to control that fear. Knowing what to do when faced with a threat is the number one defense against much of the fearful things that may happen to children. Teaching your child how to deal with threats should emphasize that this is a ‘just-in-case’ scenario. Begin by reminding the child that things should generally be okay, and introduce some of the threats you feel your child might face, then ask how best to deal with them. Listen carefully, your child may already have a handle on what to do if a stranger does something wrong or if a friend is in danger.

In discussing threats and perceived threats with your child, be sure not to laugh or otherwise disrespect your child’s fears. It can be hard to understand some of the less common fears your child may have, but by being supportive and working together to make ‘action plans’ for various scenarios, you can help your child grow up to face hard decisions with a cool head. Anxieties can be lessened by knowing what to do in case of certain situations, but a general method of dealing with fearful occurrences can be built as well, decreasing the instances of fear in the future. Being able to think clearly when faced with a scary situation is a great strength. Your child can learn from everyday conversations with an actively listening parent, so don’t miss this opportunity.