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Helping Your Child Overcome Fear

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/24/2006 | Kids & Teens
Does your child suffer the detrimental effects of fear?

Fear is part of our emotional makeup that helps us to identify danger. When children sense that something is wrong, they may feel an intense anxiety, causing their heart rate and blood pressure to increase, as well as sweating, shaking or running away from their object of fear.

In cases where children are highly fearful, they may run to their parents with loud shrieks or screams. The sense of fear may not relate proportionally to the threat or danger that is evident. This is called irrational fear. When fear stops a child from functioning in their normal environment, it has become a phobia.

HOW ARE FEARS DEVELOPED?

There are several ways that children develop fear. The childs first main contact with fear is usually developed by relating cause and effect. For instance, a loud noise like the discharge of a gun may cause a child to be afraid if they see negative effects resulting from the discharge. A child may run away to hide whenever they see a gun avoiding the object of fear.

A second way that fear is developed in children is by observing the actions of others - usually their parents - and imitating them. For example, whenever a child sees a parent shriek or run away from a spider, the child learns that spiders are objects of fear.

Sometimes fears are developed when parents reward the child for showing a fearful response. For example, a child may avoid using a bath towel that has germs on it for fear of being contaminated. If a clean towel is given each time a child requests it because of germs then you really are only rewarding the fear response, rather than helping to solve the root cause.


HOW CAN PARENTS HELP THEIR CHILD OVERCOME FEAR?

Here are seven steps to help your child to overcome fear.

1. Dont model fearful reactions
2. Show them that you can cope and dont need to avoid fearful situations
3. Teach your child how to cope with fearful situations
4. Praise your child when they cope rather than run away
5. Keep a calm atmosphere during unsettled periods
6. Stay firm and keep a positive outlook
7. Talk about genuine threats to provide a balanced view

Your childrens fear can be reduced by working through the fearful situation directly with your child. By showing that you are able to handle fearful situations you can help your child to outgrow most fears that are common in children.