Childhood fears are very common. MM takes a look at what your child may be afraid of…. and what you can do to help allay their fears….
When it comes to children’s fears, the first thing to remember is that they’re not always irrational. Sometimes, for example, a fear will develop because of a specific incident. A child who’s bitten by a dog may become afraid of all dogs, irrespective of breed or size, while another may develop a fear of men with beards because the owner of the dog had a beard.
Children can also be strongly influenced by what they red in books and comics, or see on TV, so it’s vitally important that you monitor what your child sees or reads.
Other fears can be instilled by your or your partner’s anxiety. If, for example, you’re very concerned about home security, then your child may develop a fear of being attacked by burglars. Similarly, if you have a phobia about cats, your child may develop a similar fear.
Fear can also arise out of insecurity. Children like routine and consistency and, when normality is disturbed, such as by a house move or a new baby arriving, then they can be more susceptible to fears.
The fears your child experiences will change over time and, while there can often be an overlap, some fears typically belong more to one age than another.
One-two years of age
Until the age of about two, your toddler’s main fear is losing you. This anxiety will generally last from around seven months until about school age, although it normally peaks before two years of age. This can actually be a useful ‘fear’ in that it keeps your child close to you, where he or she is less likely to get lost or hurt. Other typical first fears can include loud noises, strangers and strange objects.
Two-four years of age
Between the ages of two and four, your child’s main fears are likely to include the dark, thunder and lightning and animals, especially dogs.
Some parents also find problems arise during toilet training. A child may, for example, become afraid to sit on the toilet in case for fear of being ‘flushed away’, especially because little bottoms sit rather precariously on a large seat. If your toddler is affected by this fear, try using a toilet seat or a potty.
Nightmares usually start at about three years of age, and these nightmares can be exacerbated by a fear of the dark, which usually peaks at about four or five years of age. This is very common and can be remedied quite easily by the use of a nightlight in your child’s bedroom.
Four-six years of age
It’s between the ages of four and six that your child’s imagination will really start to take hold. Not only will they be afraid of the dark, they’ll also be petrified by the beasts who live there! Monsters, dragons, ghosts, giants and spacemen are some of the most common creatures who tend to take up residency in your child’s wardrobe or under the bed. One way of handling this issue is to physically ‘dispose’ of them! Flush them down the toilet, vacuum them up, or throw them out of the window! It’s the only way your child will believe that you’ve got rid of them.
Fear of getting lost also becomes common at this age, so it helps to go through with your child what they should do if they get lost. Even teaching them their name and address will help to allay some of their fears.
How do you handle your child’s fears?
Naturally, whatever your child’s particular fears, you should try and remain sympathetic. No matter how silly the object of fear may seem, it’s very real to your child. Encourage them to talk about their fears and discuss them at length. Simply telling them not to be afraid won’t work. You need to explain and show them that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Fortunately, most childhood fears, no matter how bizarre, tend to disappear in time. In a few cases, a fear can however continue and develop over a period of time until it begins to interfere with a child’s daily life and general wellbeing, so, if you’re concerned that your child may have such a problem, then consult your GP, who may decide to refer you to a specialist.