Fear can wear many faces to a child, be it the dark, moving shadows or an animal. No matter the fear, dealing with it responsibly and properly can help your child learn to deal with not only fear but also stress and anxiety.
No. 1: Work to understand your child’s fear
As our children learn about the world, few things around them are developing faster than their imagination. This new world mixed with that ever-growing imagination can be a lot for a young child to understand. This confusion often manifests itself in fear. All children develop this fear at varying ages and all assign it a different face. Taking the time to sit down with your child and openly discussing their fears is one of the best ways to overcome them. Even more, allow your child to completely share her fear with you in an open dialogue. Engage them by asking them to explain what their fear is and exactly why they are afraid of it. Don’t mock or put down the fear in an attempt to make it seem less frightening, instead validate her feelings and act as a strong protector.
No. 2: No fear is silly
Young children will often have a difficult time recognizing the difference between reality and fantasy; because of this a silly fear to you is something very real to her. Their young and vivid imagination can find fear in the most bizarre places. Rather that fear manifests itself in the shadows of the night or Santa Clause; if it is real to them it is worth discussing. It is very important not to send the message that it is wrong or “baby-like” to have fear. In truth, this will not help her get over her fear; instead it will simply encourage her to not open up about it. Discouraging communication, especially at such an age can be detrimental to social growth. This approach could also work to lower your child’s self-esteem, making her feel guilty for feeling fear.
Even more, silly fears for parents can be tempting to just ignore and hope they grow out of them. While fear does tend to come in phases, helping your child resolve one fear before the next one manifest is by far the best approach.
No. 3: Address the fear at their pace
The pop-culture method of forced exposure is usually not a viable method for dealing with a child’s fear.Be careful to allow your child to handle her in her own time. Be completely supportive in this time. Bear in mind that your child will follow your actions, if you model calmness and bravery she is sure to mimic it.
A much better way to address a child’s fear is to walk them through the fear step by step. Identify the area that the child has associated with her fear. If she is afraid of a sound outside her window, discuss what the sound really is. If it is shadows on the wall at night, show her gently exactly what they are from. Ultimately, ensure your young child knows they are loved, protected and validated.