Thursday, August 16, 2007

How To Deal With Fears In Children

Having three little kids can sometimes be a lifelong lesson for parents like me. Dealing with their everyday fears is a great task in itself. And as we go along our daily lives, dealing with their inner fears is a task we must carry out with great care and understanding. We agree that feelings of being fearful are part and parcel of our children's growing pains, especially during their early years. As we watch them grow, they become more aware of things around them. Each new learning experience, coupled with rapid development both physically and mentally - it is not uncommon to witness children developing fears as part of their adjustment mechanism. The good news here is that most children get over their fears as they get older.

It is sometimes us, the adults, who over-comfort or exaggerate their concern when children express their fear's. Instead of helping the poor little child, adults are now accomplices in generating such fears. This situation worsens somewhat to the dismay of adults! Therefore, it is important that adults learn to recognize certain types of fears in children that could simply be a passing phase. However, if the child's fears are caused by an external factor such as abuse or neglect, then the adults must act swiftly to remove the child from such a situation.

Fear Of Strangers
Babies often experience anxiety towards strangers as soon as they are aware of their surroundings. Some babies as young as one month-old often cry when strangers approach them, or when they are handed to another person other than their own familiar adults. Older babies around six to eight months can get very upset when handled by strangers. Their anxiety usually improves around ten to twelve months when they tend to move about. However, this positive behaviour soon gives way if children are overwhelmed by their new skills and abrupt changes in surroundings.

Fear Of Sleeping Alone
Toddlers of ages two to three may experience fears of sleeping alone or visiting the doctors office. At this age of emerging independence, toddlers have difficulty separating themselves from their parents, especially when they get tired and sleepy. They may appear to want to be by themselves during the day, but really, they are pretty vulnerable and appreciate cuddles at nights. The fear of sleeping alone may not be due to 'monsters or ghosts' as some parents may think. As such, getting toddlers to sleep alone may require a step-by-step process for parents to help ease their anxiety.

Fear Of Seeing The Doctor
Children are afraid of seeing doctors mostly because they do not like being poked or jabbed at. The strange and unfamiliar environment that is associated with pain and suffering can lead to a fear of visiting the doctors office. To help ease children's fear, parents must acknowledge that these fears are real to the children themselves. Adults should not tease them or overdo their comforting. Lastly, children should never be rushed to overcome their fears.

So what do you do when your child is experiencing fear? Here are three examples I've tried along the way :

Give TLC
When children are fearful, parents should remain calm to comfort them. Do not over-react. Soothe your child by softly humming his favourite song or find ways to help him to relax. Children need to learn positive ways to cope with their fears. Parents can show them by facing their own challenges without losing control or getting upset.

Prepare your toddler or preschool child before leaving home. If the need arises, parents can role-play what will happen at the doctor's office or at the party that they will be attending. Role-play offers much consolation and assurance.

Pat and Praise
As a child gets older, it is helpful to tell him about his success in conquering his fears. Say things like - "Look, you used to be afraid of the dark, now that you are older, you are not afraid anymore!" Be sure to praise them when they visit the doctor's office without much fuss, or stay in a party for more than twenty minutes.


darlene said...

wow, great post!!
and it sure makes you think, as it is so true!...
which makes you a fantastic Dad!!

NIHAL said...

Hi there Darlene,

I'm really happy that you liked this. I was a bit worried if it would go well with the readers. But, it's something which I've learned from my kids and that means a lot to me.

See you soon - I've bought that lottery ticket and am going to win that million bucks. ha ha ha :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nihal;
How are you?

Children and Fears. Complicated duo.

When my son was younger, he used to leave buckets of water on the floor after a shower. It took us some time to figure out that he was not pulling the shower curtain over because he couldn't see through it and had developed this fear that someone was watching him from the other side. A transparent curtain finally solved the issue.

Nice post;

NIHAL said...

Hello Anna,

It's so nice to hear from you :)

I'm doing alright for now, I guess. It's been a long long one month for me. Glad that it's all in the past now.

Anyway, I gotta agree with you, they can get complicated sometimes. And, putting up that transparent curtain was definitely a good idea, funny I didn't think of that earlier.

Thanks for sharing once again, Anna :)

JesseTheCat said...

Nihal, very interesting post, I agree that sometimes we parents make the situation even worse by over-comforting, etc. I see you have some great ideas here for dealing with chilhood fears.I shall try and put some of them into practice. Its best to help children as much as we can, or they will perhaps grow up as fearful adults.I know several people who are still scared of the dark...even me !! :) An excellent and helpful article ! Thanks Nihal... :)

NIHAL said...

Hi Jesse,

I'm really glad you could join us, appreciate you taking the time.

You're right, even the adults have them, I can't seem to understand my fear of heights till date, for some strange reason it's been there since my childhood days.

Am happy that you found this helpful and hope to hear from you again :)

Marguerite Jasmin said...

Hi Nihal,
Thank you for stopping by at my blogs. I'm glad to see you posting again after quite some time. Very interesting post, useful for parents and future parents as well.

Sharon said...

I don't have kids yet, but as my husband and I are preparing to start a family, it's good to take some very wise pointers.....

NIHAL said...

Marguerite @ Yes, I'm truly happy to be back as well. I really appreciate your concern and support. Am also glad that you found this post somewhat useful :)

Sharon @ Hi, it's really nice to know that you're planning to have a family soon, and boy, will that time be the most thrilling for any parent :)

JesseTheCat said...

lolz, a fear of heights?? at least I am not alone..I also have a fear of ugly bugs, namely cockroaches, I always think they are staring at me and plotting strange things ! ( hope none of my other blogger friends see this remark)..your post was so helpful and I enjoyed it totally.I will be back for more.have a great and blessed day, Nihal :)

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