How to Help Children Overcome Phobias
It’s normal for your child to have a healthy fear of something dangerous. Sometimes, those fears start to cross the line into irrational territory. When a small fear develops into an overwhelming phobia, it may begin to impede your child’s ability to live their daily life. Parents are often challenged by these fears and are stumped at how to help their child overcome their phobias.
If you want to encourage your child to live their life without fear, some of these easy solutions may help. Your child will be able to put their fear back where it belongs in no time.
Help them to identify what scares them.
A child who is old enough to talk can often express exactly what it is they are scared of. Parents have to know how to ask the right questions to get to the bottom of a child’s phobia though. For example, it may appear that a child is simply afraid of dogs, but she is really scared the dog will bite her. Understanding their specific fear is essential to helping them overcome it.
Expose your child to situations that make them slightly nervous.
Many children are okay with being in proximity to something they’re afraid of if they know they will be protected. For example, a child who is terrified of snakes may be able to look at them through the glass at the pet store. Start exposing your child to some of these anxiety-provoking situations to challenge their typical thought pattern.
Asking questions about what they think will happen next and how they feel will get your child thinking about whether they are in immediate danger. You can make this silly to take the pressure off of an anxious child, but take care not to make jokes that will frighten them.
Give your child some positive coping skills.
It’s normal to encounter fear in your daily life. As an adult, you may be afraid of public speaking or spiders. You know that your fear isn’t going to prevent you from performing your daily tasks though. Give your child some positive coping skills that they will be able to use even as adults. These may include simple things like deep breathing or positive self-talk.
When you face a situation that makes you nervous, comment to your child about how it makes you feel. You may tell them that you feel nervous when you see a big dog so you’re going to take some deep breaths while you’re at the pet store. This action models positive coping skills and teaches children that it’s normal to have some fears.
Remember that fear is a normal part of life. Your child needs you to validate their feelings and acknowledge that their fear is very real. You don’t need to argue with them over why a fear is irrational. Simply concede that their fear must be very difficult for them, and then work on some of these solutions. By giving them some power and control, your child will have a much easier time conquering their fears.