Children can be afraid of just about anything; from the dark, to spiders, to water, to Grandpa Jack. While their fears may not make any sense to you (Grandpa Jack’s a sweet old man!), to your child they are very real. Helping your child to get over any fear is both a challenge and a step by step process. They must know that you take them seriously so don’t taunt or make light of the situation. Let your child know that you only want to help them so that they don’t have to worry about being afraid any more.
Take things as slowly as your child needs you to, and back off if it’s clear that you are only making things worse. Conquering their fear needs to be broken down into steps, and step 1 is definitely not facing the fear head-on. No matter what your child’s fear may be, it’s real. Use this step by step process to try and help them conquer it. Keep in mind that no two children are the same, and it may take some time before they are ready to let go of their fear.
To get a feel for how deep your child’s fear really goes, find or make them a scale that goes from 1-5 or 1-10. If you have younger children, you might give them a scale that has faces showing different levels of fear or sadness. Have your child show you where they are on the scale when they are faced with the thing they are afraid of. Once you know how real this is, you will have a better idea of how to approach it.
Have your child write down a list of their fears as well as why they are afraid of it. Finding out why they are afraid is much easier if you have an older child who can put it into words for you. Younger children might be able to draw you pictures; whatever it takes to get them to open up about their fears. You can make it a fun activity by creating a “Book of Fears” for them to fill in. Leave space for them to draw pictures along with what they’ve written; children’s art often speaks volumes.
Once it’s all down on paper, have them rate each fear that they’ve written using the scale you’ve provided. Some fears might just be silly little things and others will be serious; once this project is done, you’ll know what you’re in for.
Reading what your child has written or taking a close look at their drawings can often give you the biggest answer you need to help your child conquer their fear; why are they afraid? Sometimes children are afraid of things like animals or bugs because of what they’ve seen on television. They may have severe misconceptions based on fictional things, and this is a bit easier to clear up. For example, your child may be afraid of dogs because he once saw a dog attack someone in a movie. It’s important to stress to your child that movies are not real and that not all dogs are mean.
Fears can start anywhere; maybe somebody (usually another child) has told your child that there are monsters under his bed and now he is afraid of the dark. It could be that your child is afraid of certain people because of their voice, size, or the fact that they have a beard. Once you know what the fear is stemmed from, you will have a clearer idea of how to begin fixing it.
Fears cannot be conquered overnight; just because you tell your child that dogs are friendly does not mean he’s going to rush out and start playing with the neighbor’s Doberman. Understanding the fear only makes it easier to confront your child and begin a quest to conquering.
Talk to your child about your own fears; some you have conquered and others that you may still have. Let them know that while you are afraid, you are still very brave, and you want them to be too. Don’t shame them or make them feel like their fear is unjustified; just do your best to relate.
Talk to your child about their fears and show them examples of why they have no reason to be afraid. For example, if your child is afraid of dogs, bring in books and movies that show dogs doing funny things, helping people, or just being friendly.
Also take care to monitor what your child reads and watches. Children are so impressionable; they remember and retain everything that they see and hear and they are deeply affected by it. Don’t allow your children to watch scary or violent shows, play violent video games, or read books that are graphic or have graphic pictures.
Surround your child with positivity and soon they will let go of their fears and start seeing the world as a place to be experienced instead of feared.