By Christa J Koch
Everyone has fears, even a child. The difference between adults and
children is, an adult for the most part can express their fears. If the
threat beats out safety we are generally afraid. Childhood fears, like
adult fears are based on self-protection.
There are two basic categories of a child's fears. What
the Child Knows to be true, and What
the child doesn't know.
Ex. The last time your child visited the
pediatrician she had to get a shot. Outcome: The next time she visits the
doctor she may be clingy and cry. She remembers the pain and the hurt.
Ex. Your child goes to grandma's house for a visit. She likes to play with
grandma's cat. She walks up behind the cat to pet it. This startles the
cat and it scratches her. Outcome: She may become fearful of all cats. The
cat hurt her when she was just trying to pet it nicely.
These are just examples of fears your child knows. Ones she has
experienced first hand.
Child Doesn't Know:
A fear of the unknown is scary to a child because it is unpredictable.
Young children thrive on routine, repetition, and predictability. A fear
of the unknown can also come from something that is misunderstood.
Ex. When an adult enters a dark room they can become fearful because they
can imagine the danger that might live in the dark room. Whether it be an
over active imagination, or from watching to many Saturday night horror
movies on television. Either way it is still a reaction to the unknown/
Unpredictability of the situation. Now of course most young children do
not have the same imagination as an adult, but they too are reacting to
the unknown/ unpredictability.
Ex. A child my start to fear things that they have misunderstood. A big
one is, young children may develop a fear of the bathtub or toilet.
Usually this fear arises because she may fear that she will be rushed down
with the water. Now as an adult you might think this is silly. She
obviously can't be sucked down the drain. She's too big. You know this and
I know this, but this might not be a concept your child understands yet.
Fear is not all bad:
Fear is a necessary part of your child's development. After all, fear
provides your child with self-protection. Not all cats are friendly. A
dark room can be a dangerous place. Your child showing her fear is a sign
of mental development. Known fears require the use of memory. To fear the
pediatrician she would have to remember the last visit. Even the fear of
the bathtub drain shows she has enough intellect to imagine she might be
Helping your child
with their fears:
1. Reassure your child: "I know you
are afraid of the thunder. It is very loud. But it can't hurt you. It is
just a noise." Hold and sooth your child while using reassuring
Here are a few guidelines to follow when dealing with a fearful child.
2. Take your child's fears seriously!
They are real in her eyes!
3. Look at the situation from
your child's viewpoint. Suppose your child is afraid of a walking and
talking toy. She doesn't realize the toy is not alive. After all, the toy
is moving and talking. Children donít start to understand alive and
mechanical till there late preschool years.
4. Be patient with your child. Slowly
introduce and re-introduce fearful situations. Be sure to reassure her and
provide plenty of comfort and a safety zone if possible.
5. Don't try to jolly her out
of a fear by saying "you're not scared." She is scared! Saying
she isnít doesnít alleviate the fear. But it can make her feel bad
6. Don't try to force your
child to do something that frightens her. If she is afraid of dogs.
Forcing her to pet one will not break her fear. It could intensify it.
About the Author: Christa Koch is the
proud owner/developer of the website www.preschooleducation.com.
She has been teaching preschool children for over 13 years ,and has loved
every minute of it. Christa lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful
husband Mike and daughter Haley.