Parent Connection: Your Child’s Fears
Think back to things that you were afraid of as a child. How did you respond to the things you feared? In what way were your fears resolved? All children have fears of one kind or another.
Fear is an emotion like others such as love, happiness, anger, hurt, sadness. We need emotions to process information that we receive and decide how to respond. Being afraid of fast cars, for example, is something that might protect us from harm. Being afraid of the consequence of a choice that we make prevents us from getting into trouble, and that is the healthy part of an emotion like fear.
Fears in young children commonly center on certain animals like snakes or big dogs. Sometimes children are afraid of the dark or of unseen monsters. Fears are usually learned, often because of experiences or ideas expressed by others, and at times, the media.
Many normal fears during the early years, like walking on the sidewalk grate, men with beards, or large dogs, disappear with age. Those relating to personal failure and ridicule or trauma persist through adulthood and may need special help to overcome.
There are some things we can do to help children understand their fears and grow normally in their ability to resolve them.
Recognize that children’s fears, no matter how silly or small, are very, very real and should be accepted not dismissed as trivial. As in all deeply felt emotions, children’s fears need to be recognized, noticed, and accepted as real for that child.
Parents who display frequent fears and worries themselves, or who protect their child from potentially risky experiences, will train their child to carry a larger number of fears than necessary. Children pick up the parent’s cue fast on this one.
Research shows that as a child matures, his fears center more on people and their actions more than anything else. Things like divorce, a teacher who “hollered at me,” people with guns, bullies, big boys, “making fun of me,” all top the list of childhood fears.
We cannot always prevent these experiences from happening, but it is essential that children be allowed to freely express their emotions without judgement. Empathy and an open, caring listener will help ease pain of these fears.
Read books and stories to your child about children who have experienced similar fears. This helps children to talk about their fears and to find ways to cope.
As with all emotions, fears become less of a problem for children as they gain self-confidence, see their world as safe, and find that fear is normal and can be dealt with.
…..Karin Klein, Administrator, Red Hill School, Red Hill, PA
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