Childhood fears are a common denominator. We will all remember some of our childhood. The anguish they generate can be very intense, and adults must be prepared if what we want is to help them. The question is: how?
Children may have to deal with a wide range of fears, many of them developmental and age-specific, and others pathological. In any case, it can be difficult for them to deal with very intense emotions – in fact, it is already so for adults. This is when parents can provide them with tools to help them overcome their fears.
We often make the mistake of thinking that emotional education is not necessary. We assume that children will learn to deal with their fears with time and experience; however, the reality is that they need support and referrals so that potential sources of distress do not end up causing them intense suffering.
Fear of the dark, storms, strangers and accidents will possibly resolve with age (although they can become chronic and become pathological fears). However, helping children deal with this emotion not only prevents them from experiencing great anguish, but also provides them with valuable learning that they can apply in different situations in the future.
How to help children overcome their fears
In the first place, when faced with a child’s fear, it is convenient to determine its nature. And it is that there are certain fears that tend to appear in specific stages of development; They are called evolutionary fears. Knowing them will not prevent them from appearing, but it will put us in a better position if we want to help them.
Beyond this, there are several strategies that we can implement to help children overcome their fears, whatever they may be:
1. Take care of the content that is consumed
Fear is a natural emotion that fulfills a function, and that will appear on multiple occasions in the life of a minor. However, some fears are closely related to the content that children consume in movies, series or social networks. Monitoring this content is more important than we think, so that they are not exposed to images or ideas that are not suitable for their level of maturity.
Similarly, conversations with siblings, friends and colleagues can sometimes awaken these fears. For this reason, we recommend that you make an effort to maintain fluid and regular communication with the children. They will only open up in an environment where they feel safe.
2. Explain and educate on emotions
Children, like adults, can feel overwhelmed when an intense emotion assails them. In these moments, understanding what is happening increases your sense of control. For this reason, it is necessary to explain to them what fear is, how it manifests itself, what situations easily generate it, and what we can do with it.
We must point out that it can generate symptoms in the body (such as a racing heart), certain thoughts (such as “it will be very difficult”) and specific behaviors (such as running away or trying to avoid it). Thanks to this, the child will be able to recognize her fear when it arises, name it and understand what happens.
3. Allow them to feel and express
In addition, it is essential to offer them a safe space to express themselves. As adults, children’s fears are often downplayed, downplayed, or even ridiculed. What we achieve with this is that they stop sharing their fears with us, since we are not being of help to them.
On the contrary, minors need to face their fears knowing that their trusted people are by their side, that they have that support. In this regard, sharing some of your fears with your children can help them understand that this is a normal emotion.
4. Give children an active role in overcoming their fears
This is a good time to encourage the autonomy of the little ones, and thus help them increase their self-confidence. But how? Offering them an active role in solving their fears.
Instead of directly telling them what to do, it is very positive to generate a conversation in which, with open questions, we encourage them to put words to what they are feeling. The good thing about achieving this goal is that we can help them generate a story that helps them about what happens to them.
For example: “Why do you think you feel afraid at night?”, “How would you feel safer?”, “What can you think of that we can do so that you sleep peacefully in your bed?”.
5. Offer coping models
This is one of the most important steps, as much of children’s learning is vicarious; that is, it is produced by observing how other people deal with situations. Parents, as the main references, are great models in terms of coping styles, but they can also acquire them from other sources.
For example, reading children’s stories that talk about the child’s fear, watching related movies or recreating a scene through symbolic play. By identifying with the characters, minors can internalize a series of thoughts and behaviors that will help them overcome their fear.
6. Practice self-affirmations
Self-statements are very helpful in that they address one of the main symptoms of fear: disturbing thoughts. Practicing them helps to actively transform that internal dialogue that feeds fear.
To do this, you can design together with the child some simple and positive phrases that you can repeat in the form of a mantra to give yourself encouragement and courage when facing the feared situation. For example, “I can do it” or “I will be fine”.
7. Train in breathing techniques
Breathing techniques are very effective in controlling the physical symptoms of fear. We are talking about simple exercises that the child can learn in a short time and put into practice whenever he needs to calm down or face a fear.
8. Seek professional help to help children overcome their fears
For certain situations, the guidelines we have shared are not enough. In these cases, professional intervention is necessary.
When the fear causes great anguish, lasts longer than expected or is very limiting for the minor, it is necessary before applying general strategies, to make an evaluation of what is happening. Think that there may be a situation of harassment or abuse behind it, and acting on the symptomatology we are only turning off the signals that warn us of what is happening.
Source: The Mind is Wonderful.-