Childhood Fears (page 2)
Fear is necessary to self preservation and survival. It is a normal emotional reaction to threatening or dangerous situations. Infants and young children instinctively fear things that could be dangerous. Loud noises, being left alone or in unfamiliar places, automatically triggers a fear reaction. Most fears cease once the danger is gone, or when the situation becomes familiar and less threatening. Parents often have trouble dealing with their children's fears, especially when the fears seem unreasonable.
Problems with childhood fears are most common during the preschool and elementary ages. Preschool children are developing the ability to imagine events they haven't experienced, but they can't tell the difference between things that are possible and things that are not possible. For example, a child may be afraid he or she will be sucked down the drain with the water when the bath tub is drained.
Young children believe inanimate objects can have lifelike qualities. A child may see a TV commercial in which a toilet comes to life demanding a certain cleaning product, and then become afraid to go to the bathroom because the toilet may "get" him.
Children can also develop fears by watching parents and others reacting fearfully in specific situations. A child whose parent reacts fearfully to spiders will most likely develop a similar fear. Most common childhood fears include fear of loud noises, strangers, being left alone or separated from parents, large animals, snakes, loud machines-particularly vacuum cleaners, ghosts and "monsters" and people and things associated with pain.
Parents can help their children overcome fears by:
- Allow children to express their feelings. Discuss and explain things the child may not understand.
- Actively involve children in finding practical ways to deal with fears. (ie. put in a night light to dispel darkness and keep away "monsters", allow children to drain the bath tub with toys in to show they are too big to get sucked down the drain.)
- Gradually allow children to become familiar with a fearful situation. (ie. allow a child who is afraid of dogs to watch others playing the dogs and gradually get closer as the child becomes more comfortable.
- Don't be over protective, but don't force children to have direct contact with something that is feared.
- Don't shame, show disapproval or make fun of a child's fears. Model strength and self confidence in fearful situations.
- Assure children they will always be loved and will be protected when ever necessary.
- Be patient. Fears often take time to overcome.
Sometimes fears do not subside with simple solutions or over time as a child matures. When children experience fears that are seriously disturbing to them or disrupt family life, professional help is needed.
For more information on eating disorders, or other questions or comments, call the Trinity Adolescent Program at 574-6596.
This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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