Calming Kids' Fears: No More Bumps in the Night (Part 2)
(Part 2 of a two-part article, read Part 1.)
Whether it’s a scary movie, a monster under the bed or something bigger like the current global situation, giving your kids the tools to cope and conquer their fears is one of the most important things you can do for your child. We spoke with Sarah Haas to find out how to help kids cope with fear.
Managing Fear As it Comes
Fears manifest in different ways like not sleeping through the night or changing eating habits. You know your child, it’s important to be tuned into their behaviour especially during heightened times. But, no matter how hard we try, at some point our kids will be afraid of something. When that happens, dealing with it in a positive way can make all the difference in reducing anxiety.
It’s important to get down to the bottom of your child’s fear and anxiety. For older children, talking to them in a non-threatening way when they are relaxed, and you aren’t rushed, can help. If your child is younger and non-verbal try other ways find out what’s bothering them, like having them draw their fears.
Fears don’t come out of thin air. Generally, children are exposed in some capacity—at school, through the media or a video, or overhearing adult conversations. When this happens, listen to your kids and validate their concerns—it takes as much energy to negate as it does to validate.
Then, discuss what you can do together about the situation. Try to empathize and give examples of similar fears you’ve conquered. Answer any questions…no matter what. If it’s about monsters, explain the difference between reality and fantasy. If it’s about the current world situation, give them facts in terms they can understand. Remember fear comes from the unknown, and the more information they have, the better they can process.
Help your child see a situation for what it really is, rather than what they fear it might be. Show your child monsters aren’t real by “fact checking.” Open a closet let your child see there is no monster in there right now. Explain there couldn’t be one there before because the monster would have left behind fur or a footprint. Be creative and validate their fears. Look in every corner, under the bed, look under the rug, move curtains, check it all out. Then, give them the tools they need to solve the problem. Is the dark and unknown still scary? Try a night light. It can be that simple.
For something like the current situation, explain it’s normal to be scared, but numbers are going down and people are recovering faster. Try using a bad thoughts jar. Have your child write down all the things causing anxiety. Put the paper in a jar and close the lid trapping the fears. Sometimes just saying out loud or writing the fear down can help.
Most importantly, remember that everything goes back to self-confidence. Celebrate every success, big or small. Every time you celebrate success, you build a little bit of confidence. And that’s the goal, you want to give your kids the tools to say no matter what, “I’ve got this.”