Guest post by: Charles Andrew
Every child has something they’re a little bit afraid of, whether it’s the dark, the monster under the bed or, like my two boys, going in the shower! However, for some children these little fears grow and grow until they become full blown phobias in later life … something which can affect their day-to-day living if you don’t tackle the signs at an early age.
There is plenty of scientific research and lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that children are likely to have the same fears as their parents. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. I for one share my mother’s fear of bees, probably because she spent most of my childhood summers screaming in panic when one came near her!
Fear is a part of childhood
Children can be afraid of so many things and for so many different reasons. Unfortunately, fear is part of a childhood that can often be puzzling, misleading and strange so you must be a super-parent or have a very strong child if they appear to have no fears whatsoever. The fears suffered by younger children reflect this idea of the world being a scary place; they tend to fear being left alone, loud noises, bed time, bath time and strangers. As they get older and their lives, surroundings and knowledge change, so do children’s fears, moving onto animals, school, ghosts and, another one of mine, a visit to the dentist
Even just taking my kids to the dentist for their own check-up is pretty stressful, but it has to be done. And the worst thing you can do is bring up children who are so afraid of the dentist that they won’t go themselves in later life. Like all fears and phobias, there are simple measures that can be taken to address the issue, although more serious cases may need to be treated by therapists.
The simplest way to “treat” a fear is by desensitisation. Expose the child to the object of their fear a little at a time, in a safe environment, gradually increasing the time they spend with the object. Of course, if they’re afraid of ghosts or monsters under the bed this could prove tricky, but these phobias often go hand in hand with a fear of the dark so you could always try and “treat” that instead.
While they’re in bed, turn the light off and sit with them until they fall asleep. Keep doing this until you can then leave them alone as they’re becoming sleepy and before you know it, they’ll be happy to go to bed in the dark. If your child is afraid of bees, catch one in a glass jar and allow them to hold that so they can have a good look at the creature – on their own terms.
How I did it
As for my own kids and my fear of the dentist, I decided to stop any problems before they started. Both my boys were taken along to meet the dentist, who had already checked their teeth as babies, when they were older, so they could see he was a nice man, not some stranger behind a mask. He showed them round the surgery, let them play in the chair and told them what all the fearsome looking tools were for. He even turned on the drill so they could hear the noise. My boys seem to be showing no signs of my dentophobia – and I think the exercise even did me some good!