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Mental Health

Phobias and Fears in Children – Effective Treatment Options

Fears and Phobias can suddenly appear in kids. Often, they become scared of simple things without a clear reason. But, just like made-up monsters, with the right approach, we can help kids overcome these fears and Phobias.

How Fears and Phobias Start in Kids

Even if it seems like kids’ fears come from nowhere, they usually start from a specific event. Maybe a scary experience with a dog made them forever scared of all dogs, or a movie scene made them afraid of the dark. The main thing is, one scary moment can make a child think everything similar is dangerous.

That’s when the brain’s natural reaction to danger, the ‘fight or flight’ response, begins. The brain thinks there’s a real threat and wants to react quickly, without really thinking it through. So, the child ends up being scared, mostly because of the strong feeling this situation gives them.

Why Overprotecting Isn’t Always Good

Parents naturally want to keep their kids away from anything upsetting. But when we always let them stay away from what scares them, we might accidentally make their worries grow bigger. Dodging a fear might feel good for the moment, but it makes kids believe running away is the only answer. This can lead to a bad habit of always avoiding things, which stops them from facing and getting over their fears.

If we don’t step in, the child’s brain starts thinking that avoiding things is the best answer. This way of thinking might seem helpful, but it can actually hold them back as they grow.

Tips for Helping Kids Face Their Fears and Phobias

  • Learn and Share: Knowledge helps beat fear. Kids are naturally curious. By teaching them about what they fear, you can change how they feel. For instance, a book showing how spiders help nature can make a scared child see them differently.
  • Go Slow: Recognizing a child’s fear is vital, but always shielding them might not help. Instead of rushing to save them, let them handle slightly scary situations. Show them that they’re brave and capable.
  • Stay in the Now: Kids often worry about what happened before or what might happen next. Remind them that not all dogs are mean or not all lifts break down. It helps them see each situation as unique.
  • Positive Pairing: Link the thing they’re afraid of with something fun. If loud noises like thunder worry them, maybe play a favorite game indoors during a storm to distract them.
  • Share Stories: Let your child talk about what scares them. Sharing can help them sort out their feelings and see things more clearly.
  • Small Steps First: Slowly introduce them to what scares them. If they’re scared of swimming, start by playing with water toys far from the pool. Then, maybe they can sit near the pool, then dip their feet, and slowly get into the shallow end. Taking it step by step helps them build confidence.

How Outside Influences Can Boost Kids’ Fears and Phobias

Personal experiences definitely shape a child’s fears. But we can’t ignore how things around them, especially today, can make these fears and phobias grow. Kids today see and hear a lot, both in real life and on screens, and some of these things can be scary for them.

The Two Sides of Screen Time for Kids

Thanks to modern tech, kids can now easily watch shows and videos from everywhere. While they can learn and have fun from these, some of the stuff they see might not be right for them. Even a simple cartoon could have moments that scare a child. What we, as adults, find exciting might upset a younger viewer.

It’s important for parents to keep an eye on what their kids are watching. Make sure it’s suitable for their age and offers some learning. Using tools or apps that let parents set viewing limits can be a big help here.

How Friends Shape Fears 

School is where kids share a lot of tales and adventures. A simple chat about a ‘spooky house nearby’ can make a child scared of nighttime. Kids often believe what their friends say, especially if many of them agree.

So, it’s important for parents and guardians to talk with their kids. Ask them about their day, both the lessons and the chats with friends. This way, any new worries or wrong ideas can be talked about right away.

Stories from Our Past and Their Effects

Every culture has its own stories and myths, used for teaching lessons or just for fun. But, when told in a thrilling way, some stories can make kids unnecessarily scared.

As parents, it’s great to share old stories, but always make sure your child knows what’s real and what’s just a story. Use these tales to bond, not to frighten.

When to Get Expert Help

Sometimes, the tips we talked about might not be enough. If a kid’s fear is messing with their day-to-day life, school, or making friends, it might be time to see an expert like a child psychologist.

There’s a type of treatment called cognitive-behavioral therapy that’s really good for kids with big fears. It helps them change the way they think and act about their fears. This therapy gives kids ways to face and handle their fears, making them stronger in the long run.

Using Art and Games to Help

Art and playing games can be really helpful for kids to talk about their fears. When they draw or paint, they can show what they’re scared of. With some help, they can turn these scary pictures into happy ones. Playing games lets them act out things that might have scared them. This way, experts can see what’s bothering the kid and find ways to make them feel better.

In Closing

If we don’t help kids with their fears and phobias now, they might still be scared when they grow up. But with some care and good methods, we can turn those fears and phobias into small challenges they can overcome. As parents or guardians, we should help our kids be brave and strong, so they can face anything in the future.