As parents, it can be easy to feel our children’s fears are silly or unwarranted. But, their fears are real and we need to do what we can to help them deal with the things they are afraid of. Why not help our children, while they are young, to recognize how to deal with and overcome any fear.
Here are a few tips to help our children face and overcome their fears.
Respect our children’s fears
We should never laugh or belittle the fact that they are afraid. Making statements like “that is silly”, “get over it”, or “why would you be afraid of that” will just minimize their feelings and teach them to not trust themselves, or us. Validate that their fears are real, because to them, they are.
Give your child a voice
Children do not have the life experiences to be able to understand all of their feelings. Half the time they are afraid because they don’t know how they are feeling. They might know they feel “funny” inside, or that they don’t want to do something, but they don’t know why. This is where our experience and compassion as parents come in. We need to help them put a name to their emotions. We need to help them express how they feel. Before they can begin to deal with their fears they need to be able to recognize and give their feelings a voice.
Help children learn about things they are afraid of
Read science books about how thunder and lighting work, if they are afraid of those weather patterns. Learn about dogs and watch them in action if they are afraid of dogs. Knowledge becomes a power in these situations because most of the time, our children are afraid because they don’t know or understand how something works or why it is happening. Understanding gives our children power and makes them feel more in control because they know what to expect in situations.
Work through the fearful situations and come up with solutions for handling them. A great way to role-play is through playing. Use dolls or army men or stuffed animals to enact fearful situations and role-play solutions.
Establish a routine
This brings stability because they know what to expect, which will make our children feel safe.
Praise when they have overcome fears
Whenever you see your child showing courage and strength, point it out. Don’t just tell them a good job, but instead be specific about the skill and effort they put into overcoming their fear.
Establish a working plan
Give your child solutions for dealing with their fears. A step by step that they can follow when they are afraid of the dark, or what they can do when they hear thunder or have to walk by a dog. Giving them a plan of attack will empower them and help with some of the fear. This is also a good time to share with them your experiences as a child. Talk to them about the fears you had as a child and how you overcame them.
We need to remember to be empathetic. We were scared once. Remember when you were a teenager scared to learn to drive? We were probably afraid of the same things our kids are. Being understanding, compassionate and patient are the most important things we can do to help our children deal with and overcome their fears. Also remember, that for the most part, children will grow out of their fears. Time will help.