It is almost impossible to find a child who is not afraid of anything. Kids have very imaginative minds. So they can be fearful of that imaginary monster under their bed, if not anything else. It is understandable that, as a parent, you want your child to be as calm and fearless as possible. It is perfectly normal for children to have some fears.
Self-regulation is important. Teach them at an early age how to control negative emotions. When children can process their fear healthily, they will feel braver. Of course, you have the responsibility of shielding your children from traumatic events to the best of your possibility. But as a parent, remind yourself not to be afraid of your children facing their fears.
Don’t try to fix every little uncomfortable situation for them. Working through their fears and conquering them is an important part of their healthy mental growth.
Allow them to grow up naturally, encountering slightly uncomfortable situations. Also, remain patient and help them regulate their fears when needed.
How can you help your child not be afraid?
You should give your child a chance to handle a stressful situation. But they must also know that you are there to support them. Guide them from the sidelines as they prepare themself to tackle their fear.
Some tips are given below to comfort your child when they are fearful or help them get through their fear. They might seem contradictory or conflicting to you. Try to assess how much distress they are really in and how much you should help. Should you intervene immediately?
Measure you can take:
- Talk to your child. Also, tell them to talk to you about their anxieties without hesitation. If it is an irrational fear, try to explain how it is so to your child. If your child is too young to have the vocabulary needed to correctly express what is scaring them, ask questions related to what is scaring them. Ask why they think it is scary, etc. Get a clear picture of what they are fearing.
- Be present. Sometimes your presence is enough to make a child feel calmer. If they are feeling quite disturbed, hold their hand or hug them. Assure them that they are safe.
- Don’t belittle their fear. Telling them not to worry about something will not make them unafraid of it. A sensitive child may think that you are not taking their feeling seriously. You should make your child understand that feeling afraid is not abnormal, and it is important to talk about their fear.
- Inform and educate your child. If they are a primary school student, they might have fear regarding issues like wars, pandemics, deaths, or quarrels between parents. Tell your child to ask you any questions they have in mind regarding any topic that is troubling them. Also, try to share information as honestly as possible in a way that relaxes them.
- Accept your own fears and work on them. Often a child is fearful because they have an anxious parent. As humans, even adults have fears. Don’t be ashamed about telling your child that you are afraid of a few things too. Also, if you think you have an irrational amount of fear, consider taking therapy. Otherwise, you are very likely to pass on your fearful nature to your child.
- Help them learn how to cope by not getting too involved. They must learn how to solve their problems. This will not happen if you always instruct them on what to do or say when faced with a challenge. Allow them a chance at problem-solving before you offer to help.
- Try listing your child’s fear to have a better understanding of what they are worried about. For example, a child who bawls if left in the care of a nanny or sent to school might have separation anxiety. The thought of you not being away from them makes them worried and scared.
- Don’t protect your child by avoiding everything that makes them anxious. When your child sees that you are avoiding things like places or people they are afraid of, it wrongly validates their fears. They might take it as a sign that there is indeed something to be afraid of and that they will not be able to handle it. In fact, you should gradually expose them to the things they fear and help them in facing them in small steps. For example, buy a puppy soft toy if your child is afraid of dogs. Play with it in front of your child. Show them cartoons featuring dogs.
- Reward your child for attempting to face their fear.
If you fear your child has anxiety…
Persistent and intense fears interfering with your child’s daily life might need serious intervention. Child psychology can really help your child deal with their issues. If you think that your child is overly anxious, please seek professional help. There are also online talk therapy options that your child can avail at the comfort of their bedroom. You can approach your GP first and talk to them. They can guide you as to where and how to seek help for your child.