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HELPING YOUR CHILD DEAL WITH FEARS AND WORRY

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Parenting

HELPING YOUR CHILD DEAL WITH FEARS AND WORRY

Parents usually teach their children to be cautious and fearful of specific dangers such as fire or crossing the road. This kind of anxiety can be helpful because it protects the child from harm. However, sometimes children can be scared of situations or things that adults don’t find threatening.

As children grow older, the sources of their fear may change. For example, a fears of the dark or monsters under the bed may evolve into a fears of burglary or violence. It’s important to note that teasing the child for being afraid or forcing them to confront frightening situations are not helpful tactics.

To help your child deal with fears, it’s crucial to take their feelings seriously, encourage them to talk about their anxieties, tell them the facts, and allow them to confront their fears at their own pace and with your support.

WHAT CAUSES A CHILD TO BE FEARFUL ?

Some children tend to be more fearful than others, and there are several factors that may contribute to this behavior. These factors may include:

  1. genetic susceptibility, which means that some children are more sensitive and emotional in their temperament. 
  2. one parent is anxious, they may learn to behave in the same way by observing their parent’s behavior. 
  3. overprotective parenting can also lead to the development of anxiety in children, as a dependent child may feel helpless. 
  4. stressful events such as parental separation, injury or hospitalization can also cause children to feel more anxious and fearful.

COMMON FEARS OF BABIES

By the time a baby reaches 6 or 7 months of age, they have already formed a strong attachment to their parents or caregivers. As a result, even a short separation can lead to considerable anxiety and crying. Similarly, many babies prefer to be with their special people exclusively, which can cause them to become afraid of strangers for a while. However, this phase is temporary and babies eventually grow out of it.

To help your baby cope with separation anxiety and fear of strangers, here are some suggestions:

  • Whenever possible, take your baby with you from room to room or talk to them when you’re out of sight if they get upset when you leave.
  • Announce your arrival and departure to your baby to help build their trust in you.
  • Introduce your baby to new people from the safety of your lap and show them that you trust the new person.
  • If your baby becomes anxious, reassure them with a calm and confident expression.
  • Leaving your baby to “cry it out” will only worsen their anxiety.

COMMON FEARS OF TODDLERS

At around 2-3 years of age, children are learning to manage their intense emotions, including anger. Toddlers often fear feeling overwhelmed by these strong feelings.

Toddlers may develop irrational fears due to limited understanding of size, such as falling down the plughole or toilet.

Suggestions for helping your toddler include:

  • Encourage your kid to talk about their fears and anxieties.
  • Appreciate that fears like falling down the plughole feel genuine to the child because young children don’t yet understand about size and space.
  • Don’t force the child to confront their object of fear, because this may make things worse. Help them to get used to it slowly.
  • Accept that you may have to help your kid avoid the fears in the object for a while.

COMMON FEARS OF KIDS AGED BETWEEN (8-11 YEARS)

As children learn more about the world, their list of fears tends to grow. Some of these fears are based on reality, while others are purely imaginary. Common fears that children experience include fear of the dark, burglars, war, death, separation or divorce of their parents, and supernatural beings like ghosts and monsters.

Here are some suggestions to help your kid deal with their fears and worry:

  1. Let your kid know that you take their fears seriously.
  2. Give your child truthful information on topics such as death or war. Also, let them know that you are willing to answer any questions.
  3. Encourage your child to confront the object of their fear gradually. For instance, if they are afraid of dogs, start with pictures, then try a very small, gentle dog that is tied up, so the child decides how close to get.
  4. Allow your child to have some control. For example, if they are afraid of intruders, shutting and locking their bedroom window is one of their responsibilities at night time.
  5. Daily routines and rituals provide a kid with a sense of stability, and security, and can ease general anxiety.

Overcoming a kid’s fear requires a compassionate and supportive approach. Here are some general strategies that may help:

  1. Understand the Fears: Acknowledge the child about their fear and try to understand it better. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express their feelings.
  2. Validate their Feelings: t’s important to validate a kid with fears and let them know that it’s okay to feel scared. Avoid dismissing or belittling their feelings.
  3. Provide Reassurance: Offer words of comfort and physical touch to reassure the kid of their safety.
  4. Gradual Exposure: Gradually introduce the feared object or situation by breaking it down into smaller, less intimidating steps. This allows the child to become more comfortable over time.
  5. Use Play and Imagination: Incorporating play and imagination can make the process more engaging for the child. For instance, role-playing or using toys can help the child feel more in control of the situation.
  6. Positive Reinforcement: Praise the kid for their efforts, as it can boost their confidence and motivate them to face their fears.
  7. Educate and Normalize: Help children understand their fears by giving age-appropriate information. Learning more about something can often make it less scary.
  8. Lead by Example: Demonstrate calm and composed behavior when a kid is scared. Children often copy adults they trust. Not knowing how to help can be hard and frustrating for parents, but don’t let those emotions show. Your kid can sense how you’re feeling. Revealing your emotions could make your child feel like they’ve upset you, increase their nervousness, and make communicating more difficult. Try to set an example of how to react calmly to help your kid feel calmer, as well.
  9. Involve the Child in Problem-Solving: Empower the child by encouraging them to come up with their solutions to cope with fears and feel more in control.
  10. Seek Professional Help if Needed: If a kid’s fears significantly interferes with their daily life or persists for an extended period, it may be helpful to consult with a mental health professional for guidance and support.
  11. Do Empathize: Even if what they are afraid of seems silly to you, it’s important to show your child that you understand. Although they may not truly have anything to be fearful of, the emotions they are feeling are very real.

Most kids cope with normal fears and worries with gentle support from their parent. As they grow, they get over fears they had at a younger age. Some kids have a harder time and need more help with fears. If fears or worries are extreme or keep a child from doing normal things, it might be a sign of anxiety disorder and it treatable with counseling and support.

As a parent, it’s important to understand that no matter what your kid is afraid of, they need to feel safe and secure in order to manage their fears. Your job is not to help them completely overcome their fears, but to support them as they work through it and find their own ways of coping. Remember, being brave doesn’t mean having no fears at all. It means accepting your fears and facing them in your own unique way. Children are naturally good at this, so as a parent, you can take comfort in knowing that your kid is more resilient than you might think. So take a deep breath and relax, you got this!

It’s essential to keep in mind that every kid is different, and what may work for one may not work for another. To help a kid overcome their fears, it’s crucial to be patient, understanding, and adaptable in your approach. If their fear continues or worsens, seeking guidance from a professional may be useful.

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