We all get scared or frightened at a moment in time. There are some things that we fear when we are very young and we face other fears as we grow up. To be free from fright is not easily attained, but coping with fear and overcoming it needs skills and practice. Helping our children overcome their fears at an early stage of their lives facilitates things for them later on in the future.
Children are afraid of many things and then it transforms according to age. This is a list of what they might worry about when they are alone;
Fear of the dark, bugs, not being popular, hospitals, vaccinations, doctors, nightmares, being rejected, failure, of being away from parents, school, teachers, and the list goes on.
I have listed some of the ideas that we implement and others that I have come across. Here it is important to note that my husband plays a wonderful role in thoroughly discussing these issues with the boys. I strongly recommend that dads be involved with the children’s psychological fears as it helps them in accepting their emotions with no shyness.
Let your child decide:
It is very normal that your child would want to avoid doing something that scares him. At that point it is not healthy to push the child or force him into doing what he fears the most. You would not help. In contrast, you make him become a person who cannot face his fears, and agrees to do things he is not convinced of. When my child refused to go down the slide in the water park, I told him that if he does not feel like doing so, it is ok. However, I explained that I am sure he will enjoy it if he gives it a try, especially because it is safe and secure. Ten minutes later, I hear him shouting to me from the top of the slide, “Maman, watch me!” He has decided to take the risk after all and face his fear. I simply guided him through it.
Understand your child’s fears:
Talk to your children about the things that they fear the most. Ask them, “What makes you feel scared? How do you feel about it? What can you do to make it less fearful?” etcetera.
I have once came across a superb idea where the child, along with the parent, develop a Fear Thermometer stating what they fear the most to the least, ranging from 0 to 10. Having them visualize the fear make things easier for them to surmount it.
When I did the thermometer with my third boy, he proudly said that he is not afraid of anything. So I directed our conversation towards a few points and he then said that he would give a 10 for the fear of being lost. I told him that I would also put a 10 if I lose him. It was a good occasion to review the steps we have discussed before in case we get lost. The most important one is that we should not freak out and try to be able to tell the security or police man who I am and what my parents’ phone number is.
Drawing the fear helps tremendously as the child would be able to realize that it has to do more with his thoughts rather than reality. In fact, it is never too early to guide our children in learning about mind control.
Set specific goals:
Once your child is aware of his fears, he can set goals that help him overcome them. You can always start with the ones that cause the least anxiety, and have him decide that during this month we will work on overcoming the fear from the dark which I have experienced myself when I was around six years old. At first, my mom simply went with me into the dark rooms and showed me that there is nothing to be afraid of. She continued to accompany me the first few times, and thenstarted to wait for me at the door where I would turn on the light fetch the things I need then turn it off and leave. Finally, she asked me to try to go alone. I remember that I used to come back running as she would be standing for me at the end of the long corridor. She then would thoroughly discuss it with me to see how things went and what I felt. Soon I realized that it was all in my imagination.
Be patient and show empathy
Overcoming fear takes time and patience. If your child senses your empathy, he will know that he is not alone in this situation. You can share incidents about how you were also scared at certain times in life. It is very important that you as a parent not to ignore or make fun of the fear the child is facing. After all, you are his sanctuary and support system. You do not want to increase his anxiety or lower his self-esteem in addition to the troubled feelings he already has.
Talking about fear is important, but at the same time it should not create a trauma for the child. He has to know that there are always scary events going on, but at the same time he needs to learn that they should continue to live normally and enjoy their time by not focusing on a specific fear. We always make them realize the importance of being cautious especially when it comes to talking to strangers for example, but we make sure they are not overwhelmed by their fears.
Almost a year ago, the boys were spellbound by the “Bloody Mary” image and asked us if she exists. Apparently, they have been told that they can summon her in a very dark toilet. So we all went into the toilet and followed the steps the boys told us to do, and they realised that there are fears which the mind creates and sets boundaries to our peacefulness.
Reading books takes the child into a world of imagination and creativity. Many lessons can be attained through these books. Having books that discuss fear is an excellent way of tackling the issue.
“Can’t you Sleep Little Bear?” by Martin Wadell is an amazing story that talks about overcoming fear of the dark.
“What a Bad Dream” by Mercer Mayer talks about dealing with nightmares.
Our boys do have the tendency to come during the night saying that they have had a nightmare. At that moment, we allow them to snuggle between us. Being close to the parents at night gives the child the comfort and security he needs even if you are deeply sleeping.
With children, there will always be surprises and challenges to explore and investigate. Communication is the best key that leads to exploring what goes on inside their smart little minds.