How Parents Can Help Their Child:
The child’s fears depend on his or her level of anxiety, past experience, and imagination. Sometimes, you can give the child more time to try to avoid those events and situations that trigger them. It may take the child a few months to deal with the fears. There was a lecture I heard and that I share from this:
- Avoid lectures. It is not helpful to ridicule, coerce, ignore, or use logic. Think back to your own childhood. How often did you hear phrases like: “There is no such thing as a monster,” “Don’t be such a baby,” “There are no lions or bears for miles and miles from here,” or “Pet the nice doggie, he won’t hurt you.” Did statements such as these really make you feel any better?
- Accept the child’s fears as valid. Support the child any time he or she is frightened. Use a matter‑of‑fact attitude and some reassuring words. It’s OK to explain that monsters don’t really live under the bed, but don’t expect the child to believe it.
- Remember that some fear is good. Children should have a healthy sense of caution. Strange dogs and strange people can be dangerous. As children grow older, they begin to have a better understanding of cause and effect and reality versus fantasy. They also may gain some first‑hand experience with the object of their fear and discover ways to control potentially dangerous situations. Eventually, most fears will be overcome or at least brought under control.
- Show the child how to cope. Young children can learn some coping skills that will help them feet like they have more control of their fear. Learning how to take deep breaths, using their imagination to turn a scary monster into a funny monster or keeping a flashlight by the bed after lights are turned off are all good examples of coping skills. Reading children’s books about scary situations such as going to bed in the dark or having an operation in the hospital also can be helpful.
- It is best not to force a child into fearful situations all at once. Often the “shock” method will backfire and intensify the fear. A small dose at a time is the best way to help a child over‑come fear.