Overcoming Fears and Anxiety in Children
There are some personality types that are naturally ‘worry warts’ if you are one of these your children will pick up on your anxiety. As a parent you want to teach your child a healthy fear to keep them safe but also how to deal with stress and not to become over anxious. Anxiety is infectious. If one person is anxious it is sure to spread to the other wether from parent to child or from child to parent. Try to remember when a stressful situation arises to keep you self control. You are the adult and need to be the one in command of the situation. If your child sees you are composed they are less likely to react. Reassure your child in a calm normal voice. Remove the child from the situation or the object of fear from the child if and when possible. If it is an imaginary fear it may take some time for them to calm down and believe you that there is nothing to be afraid of. If for example the child is afraid of dogs then try to introduce them slowly to dogs. Look at pictures of dogs, look at dogs from a distance then slowly reintroduce them to a dog. Explain to them that some dogs are friendly and others are not. Never approach a dog that you do not know. And never leave a child alone with an dog.
How to help your child overcome fears
Routines Once again I cannot stress the importance of routines in a child’s life. Routines help a child to know what to expect next this helps them feel secure and promotes self confident. Routines often help prevent unacceptable behaviour as it becomes and expected norm such as tidying up after playing with their toys, bedtime routines, and mealtimes. The child know what comes next, it has become a part of their life and is less likely to be questioned. If there is going to be a change in their routine give them fair warning so that they can prepare for it.
Encouragement and positive reinforcement
Children love to please. Parents can use this inherent trait to their benefit with lots of praise and positive reinforcement when your child makes an effort to overcome or confront their fear. Provide opportunities for your child to face their fears. Take small steps to gain their confidence then move to another level. For example show them a picture of the animal they fear in a book, then the animal at a distance, then with you holding the animal, and finally allowing them to pat the animal. Never force your child to confront their fear rather continually praise their every effort as they slowly deal with their fears.
Setting a good example
Parents and caregivers are a child’s first impressions on how to deal with situations. Our reactions are often copied by our children, if you are fearful or anxious your child will pick it up and may also become fearful of that particular thing. Although you may be fearful try to portray a confidence and calmness in the situation so as not to alarm your child. In a dangerous situation keep you cool and guide the child to safety. Remember you are the adult and the child is looking to you for guidance.
Be in control of the situation
When facing a child’s fear makes sure the situation is safe and the child is with people they trust and feel secure with. Start with small steps such as introducing them to a puppy or a quiet gentle small dog which you have some control over. Try to explain what you are about to do and give them a choice of what they would like to do. Such as would you like to pat the puppy or just sit and watch for awhile? With older children you may like to talk about their fears, ask them what they think might help them overcome these fears or give them some suggestions which you can discuss together. Be open and provide facts and information to help children face their fears. Often knowing more about the thing they fear helps them overcome the fear.
Provide opportunities to increase their self confidence
Confidence as mentioned above often comes with routines and praise but it also needs to be developed through a child’s self accomplishment and achievement. Parents can help their child achieve self confidents through providing opportunities which will help develop their skills. This can be in a variety of areas one of which may be social skills which includes communication to assist a child who may be anxious around other children. Many activities can be simulated through make belief, pretend play, dressing up and art. These activities may help a child express and face their fears in a controlled environment. Reading stories of children facing and overcoming their fears may also help.
Encourage your child to try new things, things that they are able to do. Provide support but don’t take over and do something for them as this will not build but often crush their self confidence.
Provide support and understanding
Provide lots of praise and encouragement is essential to develop self confidence but so too does listening to and understanding their fears and anxieties. It is important not to making fun of your child or the fears they have. When your child is fearful or anxious reassure them, embrace them and let them know they are safe. Stay with them until they have calmed down.
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Disclaimer: Article on our website are for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor to make sure this information is right for your child.