Childhood fears are nothing new. Whether it’s the dark, the boogeyman under the bed, or going to school for the first time, at one time or another, almost every kid has something that he/she is afraid of. And while this is a normal stage of growing up, fears and phobias can be quite distressing not only for children, but for their parents as well. As rational adults, how do we react to our sons and daughters’ fears in a way that doesn’t belittle them but also doesn’t make them seem worse? Here are some strategies for moms and dads to best respond to common childhood fears.
Validate the Concern
The first step is to acknowledge that the fear is real and significant significant to your child. Even if it seems silly or illogical to you, your little one may not yet have the life experience to discern what’s a legitimate worry or fear and what isn’t. Never shame or mock a child for having a fear, but instead reassure him/her that you care and want to help make things better (By doing so, you can maintain that bond that will help your child trust you even as you encourage him/her to face or overcome fears).
Ask For More Details
Often times, there’s more to the fear than simply what’s on the surface. Take the time to ask for a description to find out what’s really going on. For example, a fear of the dark may be rooted in a fear that you won’t hear an anxious or troubled kid in the middle of the night. Be sensitive and investigate what deeper issues there might be.
Brainstorm Solutions Together
This one is very powerful and productive. It’s all too easy for children to spiral in their fears, but after listening to them for a time, you as the adult can empower them to reach solutions so that their fears no longer control them (together, you can create a plan for what that might be). As the parent, avoid the temptation to simply give them the answer or tell them what to do, and instead ask questions and engage a child in the discussion so that they can their own solution (with your help, of course).