There is a strong relationship between children and fear. As a parent, you may find the various fears that your children experience to be baseless. Most of these fears pass away very soon but some of them persist for a long time. You must help your children to get rid of these fears with your encouragement and support. If they are ignored, they may sometimes end in hampering the child's growth and development. Remember that most of your children's fears are based on their anxiety and imagination.
Why do Children Have Fears?
Some common reasons why your child has fears are:
Your toddler knows very little about everything around him. This leaves him with uncertainty. The proverb "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." is quite true in his case.
He feels small and helpless in front of tall people. Tall people can appear to create a sense of danger in his little mind.
His memory repeatedly recalls those monsters and ghosts in the stories that have been told to him. If his books have such illustrations, they can leave an impact in his mind.
His imagination runs wild forcing him to think of dangers which you as a parent may not even have thought of.
He does not feel as secure with other people around him as he feels with his parents.
He is worried that you will not return when you go out leaving him in charge of a baby sitter or in a day care.
He is scared of the imaginary characters that you create to train him to become obedient.
He is self-centered and is afraid that if anything can happen to his favourite possessions, then he can also be affected the same way.
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How can you help children overcome fears?
Some ways you can help your child combat his fears are:
Do not brush away his fears as a sign of playfulness. Encourage him to talk out his fears and remember not to make fun of them.
Tell him that you understand his fears. Convince him that having fears to some extent is not bad at all. You can tell him that you too have certain fears.
Help him explore his world and do not restrict each action that he does. This will help him prepare for new things and unfamiliar situations.
Narrating stories of how other people overcame similar situations may help. If your little boy is afraid of the toilet, tell him a story of someone who had no problem.
If he appears to be afraid of carrying out a certain action, do not force him to it. But keep encouraging him to do it. He will slowly overcome his fear.
Do not tell him your fears or fears of other people. If he does not have such a fear, telling him those fears may develop them in him.
If you are afraid of something, do not express it in front of your toddler. Doing so builds up the anxiety in your toddler. For example if you are afraid of dogs, remain calm and composed rather than showing a frightened or worried expression.
Initially hold the object of fear at a distance and allow him to watch it from far. Gradually reduce the distance and when the object is really close by, allow him to feel it for himself.
Encourage him to control his environment. For example, you can teach him to light a torch when there is a power failure.
If he is afraid of horror shows or objects, do not watch horror shows in front of him. Put away those masks from his sight. Out of sight usually ends up becoming out of mind for the toddler.
Avoid using frightening characters to instill obedience in him. Ensure that you are not the cause for the fear in him.
Assure him often that he can depend on you and that you will not allow any harm to come on him. You can talk to him calmly and play with him but you need not always cuddle him. This helps your toddler in being less dependent on you.
Tell him some funny stories that will help him relax and wipe out the fear from his mind.
Provide encouragement when he makes attempts to overcome his fear. Praise him for having become a big boy.
Some Common Fears in Children
If you are going out and are not taking your toddler with you, he may be afraid of being left alone. Let him know that you are going out and keep him occupied with some activity before you leave. Do not extend the good-bye session. Give him a hug and reassure him that you will be back soon.
If your toddler appears to be afraid of animals such as dogs, get him pictures of various dogs and tell him a story about them. You can then take him to visit your neighbour's pet dog. If he appears to be afraid of the dog, remind him of the good deed that the dog did in the story you told him.
If your toddler is afraid of taking baths because the water may take him along with it, encourage him to play with a bucket of water before you give him a bath. But remember to never leave your toddler unattended while he plays with the water. You can also put some objects such as an old toy in the bath tub to show him that some objects do not drown.
If he is afraid of household equipments such as the vacuum cleaner which make a loud noise, allow your toddler to feel them when you have switched them OFF. Sometimes feeling them, provides the assurance that they are not harmful.
If he is afraid of sleeping in his room in the dark, get a night lamp fixed.
If he appears to have nightmares, tell him that they are dreams. Also tell him that dreams go away and do not stay on.
Most children get rid of unnecessary fears when they are around five or six years old. If you find your children's fears alarming and extending over a period of time, you can get the assistance of a child psychologist to help him overcome his fears.