Lots of children have a fear of something – it may be that they’re scared of the dark, terrified of roller coasters or have a fear of spiders. They could be scared of certain situations like speaking in front of a crowd or having to complete a particular task at school.
Whatever their fear is, no matter how irrational it may seem to you, it’s very real for them and as parents, there are certain things we can do to help them overcome their fear or at least learn how to manage their fear.
1. Never, ever tell a child they are being silly for being scared of something.
2. Sit down and talk about why something is making them anxious, often just talking it through will help them feel a little bit better if they can tell you exactly what it is about something that they are scared of. Miss Frugal was so anxious over a school presentation once and when we talked about it, it turned out that it was mainly because she was scared of forgetting something. We then practiced until she could have done it in her sleep to help her feel more in control which reduced the anxiety massively.
3. Helping them to understand exactly what they can expect in a certain situation will make children feel more in control and therefore, less anxious. If ever my two are worried about a certain situation, we talk about what’s likely to happen – like when Miss Frugal was worried about her school transition days we went through the schedule together and talked about it so she felt like she knew more about what she could expect.
4. Give them the tools to manage their fear and help them overcome it. Miss Frugal recently went through a bit of a phase of hating the dark and started sleeping with her door open so we gave her a sun jar which she uses as a nightlight. After a couple of days with this, she’s OK again with having her door shut and most nights doesn’t even worry about turning it on. It’s there if she needs it though which puts her in control.
5. Teach them positive phrases to repeat in their head if they are worried about something. Things like ‘I can do this’ and ‘I am not afraid of this’ can help.
6. Help them manage their fear by learning more about it! Master Frugal used to have a real phobia of bees and wasps so we learned about them using YouTube and other websites to help him familiarise himself with them a little bit. He’s still scared of them but not nearly as bad as he used to be as he now knows a little bit more about them so they’re not just mean flying stingy things to him anymore. Just make sure you watch the videos first, just in case.
7. Again, along the lines of putting your child in control, ask them what would make them feel less scared about something.
8. Don’t avoid whatever it is your children are scared of. Miss Frugal is scared of spiders but whenever we catch one in the house we show her it so she can see that they’re not scary. This is really hard for me as I hate them myself but I try not to let her see that!
9. Reassure your child that fear is normal, they’re not silly for being worried about something.
10. Read books that help your children to cope with fear. We were sent a copy of Scaredies Away by Stacey Fiorile and Barry McDonagh a little while ago and I was really impressed with it. It just reads as a normal children’s story but it teaches children that it’s OK to be scared of things and that there are ways to deal with the fear. The Magic Finger Countdown is something that really does work although we’ve only used it with smaller anxieties so far. It teaches children to channel their anxiety and turn it into power and is all about encouraging children to control their fear and not let their fear control them.
Above all, just be there for them and make sure they know they can tell you anything!