Is your child scared of the dark and of animals and monsters hiding under their bed or in the closet? Don’t be afraid; it’s normal for all young children to be frightened by something or other; their ability to imagine frightening situations grows from ages three to six.
Here are some tips for you to reassure your frightened child.
- Remember that their fear is real, even if you think that what they’re afraid of rarely scares anyone. Deal with their fear seriously, and don’t tease them or say things like, “Don’t be silly, how is it possible to be afraid of a clown?”That won’t help them get over their anxiety. Keep them away from things that scare them, and try to reassure them by explaining that the clown is wearing a huge nose to make children laugh.
- Sit down with your child and talk to them about the things that scare them. Words have the ability to reduce their negative feelings and help children regulate their fears.
- Don’t force your child to face their fears; if they’re not ready, wait until they are, and then gently encourage them by slowly getting them closer to the thing or animal that terrifies them. For example, if they are afraid of the sound of the vacuum cleaner, have them touch it when it’s off. This will help their fear to subside, and they will feel doubly safe.
- Don’t show your concern when your child panics, but manage your nerves to avoid adding to their fears. For example, if they’re afraid of the ambulance siren, don’t get tense; gently say, “The sound is very loud—is that it? It must be an ambulance taking a sick person to the hospital to help them.”
- Prepare your child ahead of time for things you think might scare them. For example, if you’re going to visit a friend who has a kitten, tell them about it before getting there. Say, “My friend has a nice kitten that likes children a lot and will let them pet her white fur.”
- Remind your child about things that don’t scare them like they used to; it will help them have self-confidence and realize that they’re capable of overcoming the things that scare them today.