Confidence is tricky attribute. Sometimes you have it; sometimes you don’t. When faced with an overwhelming fear, it’s definitely a no-confidence moment – all you want to do is get as far away as you can from the terrifying object. And when you’re only half the size of everyone else, these fears can seem about ten times as big, real and frightening.
So no matter how silly and irrational you may think a child’s fear is, it’s important not to dismiss or make fun of it. Instead, let your child tell you what makes her afraid, offer reassurance and avoid doing anything that could build upon her fears. For example, if your child is afraid of monsters under their bed, using a ‘monster broom’ to sweep them away could encourage the fear, whereas looking under the bed and explaining that you know there is no monster there, but that you are checking simply because your child wants you to, makes it a logical and proactive process.
Giving your child control over her own environment is another way to tackle fear, as a lack of control is at the root of many childhood fears to begin with. So if she is afraid of the dark, a night light means she can take action to dispel her own fear rather than rely on you to resolve it for her.
While fears cannot be inherited, they can be learned, so watch out for any behaviours you have that may encourage fear in your child – perhaps you dislike dogs or spiders or even the dark. If you learn to overcome your own fears, in the process you will come to understand what it takes to face up to fears and even be able to explain to your child how they can be as brave as Mummy or Daddy and face their fears too.
You can’t always prevent a child being afraid, but by offering your child experiences where she can learn how to deal with something unfamiliar you are giving her useful tools for coping in the future.
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article