Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Helping Children Conquer Their Fears




You're sleeping soundly one night when your child comes jumping into bed with you because there is a "monster" in his or her closet. The first few times, it can be a bit cute as it's one of those things that nearly every parent experiences at least once. However, it can grow to be more of an annoyance as it happens every night for a month and you begin to wonder what exactly is going on in your child's room.

It's not just the fear of darkness that children experience. They can have a fear of water, toilets, animals, and more that seem to be completely unjustified (at least to adults). At some point in their development, that fear has festered and grew and we as parents need to help them gain control of their fear.

1. Logistics - Many fears that children have are based in the imagination. If you prove to the child that there is no logical way that the instance could happen, they start to believe it themselves. For instance; if your child is afraid someone will come through his or her window and they sleep in a room that is 20 feet from the ground, demonstrate how nobody could reach that window. (Note: This does not always work though, as young children do not always have the cognitive capacity for adult logic. You might be surprised sometimes though!)

2. Imagination vs. Imagination - An effective way some parents have helped children release their fear is by using their imagination to combat a child's imagination. If the six-year-old is afraid zombies will get him or her, explain how your black lab eats zombies so they would be afraid to come anywhere near the house. You may have to be a little inventive, but it can go a long way to relaxing the child who has an overactive imagination.

3. Practice Makes Perfect - Regularly practicing the situation can help a child gain confidence that he or she will succeed in the activity. As some children are afraid of water, practicing swimming in a shallow pool can help them realize that they can be safe. Gradually increasing the difficulty at the child's own comfort levels can help them continuously overcome each obstacle as your praise for each success gives them one of the things they want most - your approval.

4. Don't Be Pushy - Don't try and force a child to face his or her fears without preparation. It could compound the situation and make the matter worse. We have had years of life experience in order to quell their own fears; a child on the other hand is experiencing a lot of emotions and situations often for the first time. Understand that this is a new experience and what may seem mundane to you could mean a great deal to them.

5. Your Presence - In many situations, you will undoubtedly have to be with your child in order to help solidify his or her experience. As time progresses, slowly start to spend less and less time "holding their hands" and let them experience the success on their own. Any situation can be like teaching a child how to ride a bike. As soon as he or she has balance of the situation, let go.

Every child is different and fears may vary from one to another. However, there is usually always a constant within them. A lack of confidence in the activity or location could spawn this behavior. Help your child build the confidence he or she will need in order to succeed in life instead of running from it.

Author Bio:
This guest post was written by Ken Myers. Ken holds a Master’s in Business Leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of  morningsidenannies.com, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.

Image Citation: Ben Francis 



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