Fears and anxieties are a normal part of childhood. For that reason, not all childhood fears need immediate interventions or treatment—and not all need to be addressed formally. However, if your child is experiencing extreme fear, it may affect their daily life and their ability to interact with their family, friends, teachers, and the world around them.
This situation can be very stressful for all of you. By focusing on a few useful strategies, you can help your child begin to manage their fears, reduce anxiety, and function better at home, in school, and in the community.
The 3 Main Types of Childhood Fears
Overall, there are three main types of fears:
- Acute fear. This is a short-lived fear that is usually caused by a specific event or experience. For example, if your child experienced a car accident, they may be fearful of being in any car for a short time.
- Specific fear. This is an irrational fear of a specific object or situation that has posed no immediate danger. For example, your child may be afraid of spiders even if they’ve never been injured by a spider and may remain afraid of spiders for a long time.
- Social fear. This is a fear of social situations and the other people in them. For example, a child who is afraid to participate in a class or speak in front of people may have a social fear.
Childhood Fears – Management Strategies
If your child’s fears are normal for their age, these strategies may help them manage their response.
Strategy 1: Provide a Safe Environment
One of the most important things you can do for your child is to make sure they feel safe and protected from harm. You can do this by creating a predictable routine. Also by keeping open communication with your child and avoiding being overprotective.
Strategy 2: Help Your Child Understand Their Fear
Another way to help your child manage their fears is to help them understand what they are afraid of. This can be done by talking about fear in an age-appropriate way. You can also help your child to identify the physical symptoms of fear. They might have a racing heart or sweaty palms.
For example, a child who is afraid of spiders may not understand why they’re scared. You can help them to learn about spiders. What do they look like? How can they identify them? Discuss the fact that most spiders are not harmful, but helpful. This may help your child feel more confident around them. It should also help them develop a stronger understanding of how and why spiders won’t hurt them in most cases.
Strategy 3: Reinforce Positive Behaviors
When your child displays positive behaviors related to their fear, reinforce them with praise. This will help to increase the chance of those actions being repeated in the future. For example, if your child is afraid of going to school but still attends each day, praise them for their courage and bravery. This will help them feel good about themselves. It will also help them to continue to display courageous behaviors in the future.
Strategy 4: Use Relaxation Techniques
One way to help your child manage their fear is to use relaxation techniques. These can be simple exercises, such as deep breathing. This can help to calm their mind and body. For example, your child who is afraid of spiders may be helped by visualization exercises in which they imagine a safe and comfortable place. This can help them to feel more relaxed around spiders and reduce their fear.
Strategy 5: Seek professional help
If your child’s fears are affecting their ability to function in everyday life, it may be time to seek professional help. You can call a mental health professional such as a psychologist. Also, a school counselor could help your child learn to manage their fear. For example, a child who is afraid of social situations may need professional help to learn how to interact with others in a healthy way.
You Can Help Your Child in Many Ways
Overall, most children’s fears are normal and can be managed with some simple strategies. You can position your child for a successful life where their fears no longer control them. If these strategies don’t help your child improve their home or school experience, you should never be ashamed or intimidated to seek professional help.