Addressing Childhood Fears


Developing fears is a normal part of the preschool and early elementary school years.  Their awareness of the world and their imaginations are growing faster than their ability to use logic and reason. This is also a stage where the time they spend away from their families is increasing, and they are learning to function more independently. Typical fears include being afraid of the dark, being leary of strangers, being afraid of dogs, thunder or water. While fears are normal, it is the level of the fear that can be disruptive.

When you realize there is a fear, encourage your child to talk about it. Practice listening to all they say, validating that they have concerns, labeling and helping them to express their emotions. It can also go a long way to offer reassurance that they are safe.

Next encourage children to find solutions. Brainstorm with them things that would help them feel better. Talk about which ideas are helpful and possible. If you are part of the solution, be sure you are doing things with your child rather than for your child. The goal of this is to help children learn to face and conquer their fears. It is moving away from their thinking, “this is bad,” to, “I can handle this.” This works by helping them feel confident to move through it and be okay on the other side, rather than avoiding the thing. This doesn’t mean forcing a screaming child through, it means providing time, space and reassurance to help them move though in a comfortable way.

Helpful parenting books include

Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking or Freeing Your Child from Anxiety both by Chansky

Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step by Step Guide for Parents by Rapee, Spence, Wignall and Cobham

Helpful children’s books include

Sometimes I Worry Too Much but Now I Know How to Stop by Huebner

Wemberly Worried by Henkes

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Cook

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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