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How to Deal with Your Child's Fears

Learn how to deal with your child's fears in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.


Hi, I'm here to talk about how to deal with your child's fears. The first thing is to realize that fears change based on a child's age. And so infants certainly have stranger anxiety, whereas toddlers will have separation anxiety. We all know the clinging to your leg kind of anxiety for pre-school. And then when you get a little older into the early school years, there may be some fears related to nighttime and bedtime. And then a little older than that, there are some real fears in terms of what's out there and the dangers in the world.

Now in addition to that, you have some children that are just born more fearful, or worried, or anxious. So you want to look at the combination of how is your child in terms of what's age appropriate and how is your child in terms of their ability to manage their fears and your ability to help them with it.

Now once you realize that your child is having some kind of fears, I think what you'd do depends on a few things. One is their age and certainly separation anxiety with the child going off to school. You don't want to linger and reinforce that fear too much, because what that does it often backfires in terms of the child thinking there is something fearful and that you need to take care of them.

Later on, it's that you need to help kids have their own ability to solve their problems and their fears. Now when it's somebody that's school age, sometimes the imagination that's taking over in their fears will help with... You can use their imagination to talk about keeping that Ghostbusters kind of ointment by the bed. And so bad imagination will help their fears.

Now you also want to always make sure that you teach your kids calming activities so that they can learn how to feel more relaxed and not anxious, because when you're scared, often your body is feeling worried and scared. In general, when you're helping children with their fears, what you always want to do is make sure you don't dismiss their fears. You want to accept that they do feel afraid and just saying, "Oh, it's no big deal. Don't worry about that," really doesn't make them feel any better, because it's not empowering them or teaching them something to do. So you might want to teach them how to relax, how to confront their fears, how to think about it differently, how to reassure them in terms of maybe checking in the closet that there aren't any monsters there. But in terms of reassuring them, you want to be very careful about setting up a system where they're constantly going to you for reassurance. They sometimes call that reassurance seeking, and then after a while, what it teaches them in terms of managing a fear is going to you to fix it instead of finding those strategies within themselves to fix or feel less afraid.

Now when you have a child their worry is getting out of control, let's say they can't stop worrying, they have thoughts constantly in their mind about things that are so rare or they keep rationalizing that something bad will happen or a child that's stopping going to school because they're so afraid to leave you, then you really want to think about getting outside help so you both can figure out what better strategies are. So you both can figure out what are better strategies to manage this fear, so that you both feel safer and calmer.

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