Helping Children Overcome Fears
A child with too much fear may be afraid to participate in normal activities. A child with too little fear may take too many chances and get hurt. Many types of fears are normal and most children grow out of these fears. Although outgrowing age-related fears takes time, there are things you can do to help.
Accept and respect children’s fears
Fears are real to children, so don’t laugh or say their fears are not real. Take time to teach coping skills.
Spend extra time with your children when they seem to be afraid
During storms or at bedtime might be times when children need special attention. Bedtime routines like a song or a story can be comforting.
Establish a predictable routine
This makes your children feel secure in their world.
Talk about feeling scared
It is important for children to learn to talk about all of their feelings, including fear. Help children to name what they feel and give them a chance to tell you why they are scared.
Use play to talk about fears
It might help to use dolls, puppets, stories and art to talk about being afraid. The children could act out their fears; this gives them a sense of control.
Help children learn about the things that scare them
Knowing how things work and what to expect can make things less scary. Read books about why fire trucks have sirens, or learn about thunder and lightning. Let your child know that it is okay to be afraid of some things – like dogs you don’t know or strangers.
Tell your children when you notice them being brave.
Make suggestions for coping with fear
Ask what would help them feel less afraid. Talk about how you coped with fears when you were a child. Asking them what will help teaches them problem-solving skills.
Goetz, G. and Meyers-Walls, J.A., Helping Children Overcome Fears. February, 2004. Purdue Extension Family and Consumer Sciences. Purdue University. 29 November 2010. http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFC/CFS-169-W.pdf