Dealing with the emotion of fear is unavoidable, but handling it well is definitely something we can all do for our kids. This article will let you know 6 things you can do as a parent, mentor or guardian that will help children deal with fear better. Read on!
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
and he couldn’t be more right about it. One of the most beautiful things about a child’s mind is their ability to imagine and visualize a world that is truly special. And each experience brings a new dimension to their imagination.
With experiences, what follows is an ability to feel new things, like the butterflies in their stomach when they go on their first ride on a roller coaster, the discovery of joy in finding something they thought they lost, or even the feeling of disappointment when a parent says no. As a parent the journey to teach their child how to manage these emotions is truly a challenge.
It’s when a child is exposed to these emotions, the child tends to develop a defence mechanism and a pattern to deal with these emotions as well. For example, some kids express joy physically, by jumping or running around, while some may choose to just smile and not react too much to it. Another example would be a child who can express anger by screaming or throwing a tantrum while some might just cry quietly.
These are a child’s own ways of managing emotions, and if the child is educated consciously and constantly about these feelings then they can develop healthier mechanisms and develop a more empathetic side to themselves. As parents the responsibility to make the child understand and accept their emotions lies with them.
One of the toughest and most sensitive emotion to deal with for a parent is fear. Now with Halloween around the corner, the talks of ghosts, spooky things and scary elements will increase the need to be more present for your child and help them accept and deal with fear well.
What makes a child develop fear?
You cannot avoid fear!
Anyone including adults mainly fear aspects that they feel might be a threat to them, real or imagined. Usually, the key triggers for fear are:
- Uncertainty or unfamiliarity about a particular thing or space.
- Borrowing fears from what we see and hear
- Genetic predispositions like anxiety
- Trauma and life events
How do we manage fear in children?
Fear for children keeps evolving over the years. A toddler might be afraid to be left alone while a five-year-old might have a fear of the dark. As kids get exposed to newer experiences, fears can also expand and tag along anywhere.
The most common mistake that people make while dealing with a fear is to invalidate the fear. Making fun of a child’s trepidation, negating it by saying there is nothing like it, or on the flip-side by validating the child’s fear basing it on your own insecurities.
So, it becomes essential, that as parents we make a conscious effort to look at the child’s fear with empathy and deal with it as a team.
Some of the ways to help a child overcome their fear would be:
1. Be present, but not too much
Letting a child express their fear without inhibitions is the first step while managing fear. As the child looks up to you for guidance as a parent, knowing that you understand and are there for them is the greatest comfort. But its also important to know when to step in to help. If we guide the child on every step of the way on how to deal with things, the child will not develop an ability to handle an emotion by themselves.
2. Ask questions and factualize the fear
A child’s imagination is quite powerful, so many a times the fear is manifested by their imagination. By asking the questions and making them look at things with more fact-based information and with practicality might help the child see the fear as a mere imagination rather than real.
3. Don’t skip or brush questions aside.
The curious mind of a child will always want to know about things, especially mysterious things like ghosts and death. So, lying or hiding details from a child will only give them incomplete or false understanding of things which can further lead to more confused thoughts. Instead, paraphrase or explain in simpler terms and give examples to answer the tougher questions like questions about death and spirits.
4. Slow and steady
‘Face your fear’ is a nice way to overcome fears, yes but if the child is not ready forcing them to do it might give raise to other psychological issues. Taking it slow and gentle encouragement is what will make the child comfortable to face their fears.
5. Keeping a watch on your own fears and judgements
Children are emulators, most often they pick on fears from their parents and family’s reaction to things. So being watchful of your own reactions to things would go a long way in letting the child know that fear is unavoidable, but we can also deal with it. If a child sees you run away or react strongly to something, they might pick on the same fears. Having said that it doesn’t mean that you always have to be brave in front of your child. Showing that you also can be afraid, will let them know that they are not alone in this.
6. Action speaks louder than words
If communicating is not proving to be as effective a tool to eradicate the fear, its time for some action. Making small changes or adjustments to the environment will help the child over their fear. Adding a light to the dark corner, giving a toy which is going to keep them safe from monsters, making a magical song to keep demons away, all these small gestures will make the child comfortable to deal with their fears.
Its only when you are afraid, you get a chance to be brave. A child truly should experience all emotions in the world. That’s what will make them emotionally intelligent and aware of being human. Our job as parents and mentors is to let them experience and help them understand themselves.
Featured Image by Kids vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com
About the Guest Author
Sindhu Gouthami, the founder of MoxieandHopper, is an educator and has been training for the past 14 years. With extensive experience in training working professionals and adults on skill development, she realised that true skill development happens at a much younger age, and thus she started designing learning courses for kids from the ages of 2-14. She believes that education is not just about literacy or academics but is about empowerment. Moxie and Hopper is an initiative to facilitate experiential learning amongst children with an emphasis on cognitive flexibility, emotional intelligence, and creative thinking to create happy and engaged minds.