Children develop a fear for a particular thing if they have an unpleasant past experience with it or they are not familiar with it yet. This may include fear of darkness, strangers, loud noises, insects, separation from parents, heights etc. Even though these fears change or reduce with time as they grow up, sometimes due to any traumatic experience or not learning to cope with it, some fears remain and turn to phobias.
As parents, your goal should be to help your kids become brave enough to face their fears and make their fear go away. Overcoming fears is a slow process where one needs to understand the situation and develop habits to deal with those fears. Here are 5 ways you can help your kid overcome his fears:
1. Never force your kids
The fear may seem trivial to you but it is absolutely real for your children. Therefore never ignore or ridicule their fears. Scolding, making fun about it or forcing them to overcome it, will never make your child feel safe and even if they obey what you say at that time, their anxieties will not go away. They will start believing that you do not understand them and learn to bottle it up. They will restrain themselves from sharing it with you again in the future and suffer alone instead.
2. Encourage them to be expressive about their fears
Recognizing your fear and being able to admit that you need help to overcome it, is very important. Encourage your child to share and be expressive about their fears as well as anxieties. No matter how silly or intense it is, being able to talk about fears helps to feel safer and calms the mind. Assure them that they can easily overcome these fears and you are always there to help. Also, it is important for them to feel safe and protected around you so that they feel free to share their feelings with you.
3. Educate them about the facts
Toddlers and young kids do not understand the difference between real life and virtual experiences such as scary movies or pranks. Loud objects or noises, scary masks and imaginary things such as ghosts or monsters, can easily scare your kids. At this age, children do not possess reasoning abilities and believe whatever others or their own perception tell them. Help your kids understand their fears better by educating them about various facts associated with these objects or incidents and help them get accustomed to the reality.
4. Help them to relax
The very idea of facing your fears can become extremely terrifying. Therefore, to confront with your fears, you must first learn to calm yourself down and relax a bit. Allow your children to visualize the situation when they are facing their fears. Their imagination will help them feel the tension almost right away. Now teach them to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing techniques, imagining the object or incident as a cartoon character, associating a fun activity with the fear itself etc.
5. Help them face their fears and get familiarized
Be it about the monster under the bed or the neighbour’s dog, your child will never be able to overcome their fears until they learn to face them and get familiarized. Most often, due to the uncertainty of the outcome, your kids will refuse to face their fears. In such case, you will need to be their constant support and boost their confidence. Facing your fears is a slow process that cannot be achieved in a day. Gradually expose them to their fears and be the example - show them how to deal with such situations. Switch on the light and check under the bed yourself or pat the dog and play with it in front of your child.