Dealing with Your Child’s Fears and Phobias

From monsters in the dark to being afraid of animals, there may be a whole lot that your child has to deal with.

WORDS TEO KUAN YEE

Sometimes, kids learn to fear a certain object or situation after an unpleasant experience, say a near-drowning incident or being chased by a dog, or they pick up their sense of fear from those around them such as their parents who may have a fear of swimming (arising from fear of drowning), creepy crawlies, loud screechy noises or sudden claps of thunder during thunderstorms.        

Between the ages of three and six, some kids develop night time fears, partly due to the fact that kids this age have vivid imaginations. They are still figuring out the difference between fantasy and fiction say cartoon characters or some of them may have nightmares. For sensitive children, life’s changes such as moving to a new house or the arrival of a sibling may also bring on anxieties which accentuate during bedtime. Some kids may imagine monsters lurking under their bed, moving shadows or strange creaking sounds as soon as the lights go out.

 

 

Such emotions are normal and are part and parcel of junior’s growing up experience. Helping your child deal with his fears and phobias will help him handle the uncomfortable situations and life’s challenges.

 

 

Stay patient and understanding no matter how challenging the situation can be. Over time as he matures, he will gain more knowledge and his confidence will improve, and uncertainties of his fears, such as the dark, will dissipate.

 

Help Your Child’s Fears and Phobias

Suss out your child’s fear – gently broach the subject and get him to describe it by asking him to describe to you what makes him scared. In the process of your child talking out his problem, it will help him confront his fears, discover alternative ways to react and cope and boost his confidence.

Avoid trivialising your child’s fears, no matter how small the object or silly the situation may seem to you. However, do not give in to the fears by avoiding the source of fear as this will validate them. Think of creative ways to overcome them with your child. Be your child’s pillar of support as he tries to surmount his feared situation or object. If your child has a hard time being separated from you, be firm when you say goodbye, reassure him that you will be back to pick him up from school, and he is safe with his teacher.

Introduce your child to the object of her fear without any pressure to get close to it. If he is frightened of dogs, show him pictures of dogs in books or magazines or visit the pet stores to see dogs within their barriers. You can gently stroke a dog to show him that it is okay to get close to a friendly dog and to relax by saying to himself that he will be okay.

Take small steps. If your child is afraid of taking a shower because of the gush of water from the showerhead on his hair, bring him to a swimming pool to splash water to get him used to the effect of getting his hair wet or bring a toy bottle or watering can to “water” his hair.

 

Overcome Night Time Fears

Establish a light-hearted and relaxed bedtime routine. In the 30 minutes or hour leading up to bedtime, check that your child is not watching any scary cartoon or video or reading frightening bedtime stories. Avoid using the smartphones or electronic devices which are harmful to the eyes and stimulates the mind.

Engage him in peaceful play such as board games like snakes and ladders, or read his favourite book which can be a funny story to put him in a relaxed state of mind. Let your child play with his favourite plush toys which can serve as his “bedtime buddies”.

Provide healthy snacks in the evening before bed. Make sure that the snacks are not too sweet or heavy-going as they put your kid on hyperactive mode instead. Give your child some warm milk or dairy products like cheese to help him relax and feel sleepy.

Use a night light that shines indirectly at your child’s bed and provides adequate background lighting and provide a safe environment that is conducive for your child to feel comfortable and be lulled to sleep. It is a good idea to leave the bedroom door ajar to assure your child that you will pop over to his room every now and then if need be.

 

 

Give your child a greater sense of security to make him feel safe. Hold their hand or stay with them to assure them of their safety as they drift off to sleep to show that you understand that they are scared.

 

 

Tell them that they will be safe even after you leave. For an additional sense of security, surround him with extra pillows and tuck him into his duvet.

 

Encourage Your Child

To motivate your child to face his fears and overcome them, treat him to his favourite food or adopt a reward programme with stickers which your child can earn after he accumulates sufficient numbers in exchange for small toys or other special prizes such as a book. Encourage him with statements such as, "You are doing a wonderful job of sleeping in your own room."

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