It is common for children to be afraid of things. In fact, young children are afraid of a lot of things, at least initially. There are a number of common fears children have depending upon their age. What you want to do is identify the things your child is afraid of and sooth the fears. Here are eight common childhood fears and things you can do to help soothe or comfort your child.
1. Separation – Babies and toddlers may be afraid when their mom or primary caregiver leaves the room. One way to help your child is to reassure them that you’ll be right back and continue to talk to them when you leave the room.
2. Strangers or new people – Along with feeling anxious when a parent is not visible, many children also fear strangers. They don’t want to be near someone they don’t know and they certainly don’t want to touch them. Pat or rub your child to help give them a sense of security while they adjust to the new person. It is important not to force them interact with the “stranger”.
3. Bathrooms and bath time – Children being potty trained, normally between two and three years of age, often fear going to the bathroom. The loud sucking noise of the toilet being flushed or water being drained from a bathtub may make them afraid that they’ll be sucked down the toilet or the tub. Hold your child while you flush or drain the water from the tub. This gives them a sense of security by being in your arms while being above the “dangerous” noise.
4. Animals – Children may have experience with stuffed animals but are afraid of the real things. That’s understandable. Real animals move and make noises so your child may not be able to predict the animal’s behavior. If your child has been scratched or intimidated by an animal, hold and sooth your child. Let them watch the animal from a safe distance while you talk about what the animal is doing. Older children may benefit from drawing or coloring animals.
5. Monsters and masks – Each year around Halloween stores fill their aisles with ghoulish masks and things that are designed to be scary. Since kids depend on eye contact and facial recognition, these items may confuse or frighten them. Depending on your child’s age you may want to: turn the mask inside out and let the child touch it, draw or color pictures of the monster, read books about monsters. I recommend “The Monster at the End of This Book,” which is about Grover.
6. Darkness – Children have vivid imaginations during the daylight hours, but it really gets active once the lights are turned off at bedtime. They may imagine monsters are coming to get them. Remember the boogeyman? Children still have this type of fear but you can help them to overcome these fears by providing a nightlight or other light source they can control.
7. Death – This is particularly a factor for children who have experienced a death in the family. If you tell them the loved one has “gone to sleep” it will confuse them and may make them afraid of going to sleep. You may want to share your basic religious views on the topic with older children. Younger children may need to hear see pictures of the person or hearr happy stories about them.
8. Divorce – It is entirely possible that some of your children’s friends have parents who are divorced. If their friends talk about not living with both parents, your children may begin thinking you and your partner will also divorce. When you get down to the bottom line on this one, the fear is often related to safety, security, and separation issues.
When your child expresses fear, remember to respect their feelings. Whether the fear is based on something real or imaginative, the feelings are the same. If have used one of these soothing techniques or have a suggestion of your own, please share your experiences below and participate in our poll (choose all answers that apply.)