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6 Tips To Help Your Children Overcome Fear
Halloween is here! And our calendars got filled with several spooky movies and events to attend. Experiencing fear for fun during Halloween is a tradition. But what about children that don’t find fear amusing? How can we help our children manage and even overcome fears?
When it comes to children and experiencing fear, it is helpful to understand what is age appropriate first:
Newborns dislike being in presence of strangers or being touched by them.
Toddlers usually experience some separation anxiety. Even if they never complained about you leaving the room, it may start all of a sudden.
Children 3 to 8 may experience fear of unreal things, such as ghosts and monsters, as well as of loud noises, bright lights, or unknown objects.
At around 7 until 12, children become afraid of catastrophic events, worrying about what would happen if a specific situation arose that can affect you as a parent, as well as the child.
Knowing the baseline of what are normal fears child experience can prepare us as parents to know how to react. Here are some tips on what to do if your child is experiencing fear:
Validate your child’s feelings. Even if you don't relate to their fear, express understanding. Here is an example: “It can be very scary to talk in front of a whole class.” Simply acknowledging the fear, and talking about it, can help the child overcome it.
Avoid minimizing their fear. Statements like: “You are silly to be afraid of that,” or, “Don’t be ridiculous” undermine the child’s experience and may result in your child internalizing the fear negatively.
Provide physical safety by giving affection, such as a hug. Physical touch from the parent is another way children feel safety, reducing the feeling of fear.
Help make sense of the fear. Have a conversation with your child where you discuss what the fear is about. This should be followed with brainstorming on how to minimize the fear. Start by asking: “What can we do about this? For example, for fear of the dark, asking this questions may lead to considering a nightlight, sleeping with a stuffed animal, or a favorite blanket. Another way of doing this is by getting children’s books that talk about the topic your child is fearful of. Nowadays, there is a child story about almost any topic.
Help your child use positive affirmations, such as “I can do this” or “I got this.”
Help your child work through the fears. This means not avoiding what the child is fearful about. If your child is afraid of the dark, a nightlight, reading until the child falls asleep, praying, counting sheeps are valid options to help overcome the fear by being in the presence of “the dark,” the fear at hand for this case.
It is also important to recognize the signs of when a child is experiencing fear versus anxiety. If your child is experiences a combination of the following symptoms, he or she might require some external help from a counselor to improve coping of the fears. These are the symptoms:
Clingy, impulsive, or easily distracted
Sleeping pattern changes such as sleeping too little, waking up at night, or sleeping too much
Nervous movements, such as temporary twitches
Accelerated heart rate and breathing
Nausea, headaches, or stomachaches
To a fun filled Halloween!
Your Therapy Friend
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships, in her private practice, located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/