How To Help Your Older Child Overcome A Fear
Fear is a very normal human emotion. It plays a role in helping us to assess danger and protect ourselves from things that can cause us harm.
If we walk close the edge of a cliff or mountain we naturally feel an element of fear and take a couple of steps backward to ensure our safety is not compromised.
For this reason, fear is not a problem that we should become concerned about in a general way.
As a baby, fear may begin in the capacity of separation anxiety for example. Those first snippets of fear may have originally been reactions to loud noises or unfamiliar faces but as we develop it is common to experience a sense of fear when we are separated from our parents.
Until that point, our parent has been the main provider of comfort, security and care in our little world. They may also be the sole source of food. Finding ourselves separate from them is an uncomfortable and scary experience for so many different reasons.
Eventually, babies grow to recognise that their parent always returns. They develop a sense of trust towards the person who is caring for them in the absence of their parent and the fear and upset naturally diminishes. It is a short term experience of fear and thankfully, in most cases, a very fleeting thing.
Toddlers are naturally curious about the world and with this level of curiosity can come with a sense of fearlessness.
Many of the fears our toddler experiences are perhaps inflicted upon them by us in a bid to help them assess danger and avoid things that may lead to danger.
Toddlers are little sponges and we can help them navigate their fears by offering reassurance and physically showing them tangible ways to overcome very sudden fears.
Things get a little bit trickier when our children become older and are of school going age. As our children become more exposed to media and external influences they, in turn, become aware of the scarier parts of the world.
A simple news story may be overheard while on a car journey. It could be a simple photograph on the front of a newspaper and in an instant, they are aware of something that results in very real fear. As parents, it is very difficult to “talk them out of” the fear because they have a very clear sense of that reality.
They know it has happened or can happen and therefore it is possible that it may happen to them.
Helping an older child to overcome a fear takes patience and huge levels of sympathy on the part of the parent. The fear may seem completely ridiculous in relation to our reality but from the perspective of a child or young adult, it is something that threatens the way they experience and enjoy the world.
Even as adults our fears are usually unreasonable in nature. They usually concern things that will probably never happen and yet, even as intelligent adults, we cannot overcome them as easily as we might like to.
For older children communication is key. As soon as you spot a pattern it is important to acknowledge it. Your gut feeling may be to avoid it so that it is not blown out of proportion but chances are this little fear is growing legs and progressing at an impressive rate for your child.
Asking about the fear is a good place to start. If you can understand where the fear began it can help you explain the situation to your child. Having it explained may help them understand that while that did happen to another person it is very unlikely to happen to them.
You can list the reasons that you believe this to be true (it may relate to where you live or some of the things you do to protect your children as parents).
Unfortunately telling them that they simply shouldn’t fear this particular thing is not entirely helpful. Older children require an explanation and a deeper understanding of the things that they fear.
In cases where a fear relates to something that they have experienced, it may be important for them to thrash out their emotions regarding the subject. For example, the child may have been bitten by a dog and subsequently developed a fear of animals as a result.
They may have been involved in a car accident and now they are anxious car passengers. In these cases, therapy may be a good option. Colour therapy, play therapy or some kind of CBT may help your child make peace with that experience, trauma and move forward in a positive way about that subject.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.