Helping Children Overcome their Fears
Everybody is afraid of something, and adults are often anxious in a new situation. As adults we handle our fears by confronting them, by talking ourselves through them, we seek the help and advice of friends, and many of us pray to assuage the uncomfortable feeling we are experiencing. We are able to do those things because we were taught as children how to handle the fears we had.
Fear is something we cannot stop our children from facing, and it is actually something they need to face. When a child is afraid of something and they learn to handle that fear then they are preparing for some of the difficult situations they will face as adults, and they are learning what things they can do to get through those hard times.
Some of the fears that children experience are expected because all children go through them to some degree. As infants children often experience stranger anxiety and between the ages of 10 and 18 months toddlers will exhibit signs of separation anxiety.
Children who are between 4 and 6 often have fears that are not based on real situations. They often fear monsters under their beds, or ghosts. Although these fears are not founded in reality, they are very real to the child and can cause behavioral problems, and many sleepless nights, if the child is not taught to face them.
In order to help a child deal with fears of things that are unreal you must be compassionate and willing to listen to them. Do not just tell them that there is no such things as monsters, instead get them a flashlight they can keep in their bed with them, and be sure to go through a routine of checking the closet and under the bed for monsters each night at bedtime. Tell them that the monsters are not there and are not real and use the checking of the closet as proof that they are not there. In time your child will outgrow these fears.
Between the ages of 7 and 12 the fears that most children have are based on real things that could happen to them. Children of this age often fear accidents and illnesses that could harm them or someone they love. They fear rejection from their peers and they often fear the occurrence of natural disasters. These are common fears that arise because the child is beginning to recognize some of the dangers they face.
When your child shows fear about things that could happen to them or their loved ones you should listen to them. Their concerns are very real. In order to assuage their fears do some research with them and learn as much as you can about the thing they fear the most. If they are terrified of floods then learn everything there is to know about flooding and how to survive an event like this. Teach them to be cautiously prepared rather than frightened.
Patience and knowledge of the thing the child is afraid of are the only ways to really address fears in children and adults.