How to encourage kids to face fears?
It was exactly a year back when we went for dinner at our friend’s house. Having kids of the same age, such informal dinners were always great to unwind and were full of fun for kids. But this time, it was a little different, as they had adopted Toxy, a cute beagle recently. I had some inhibitions, as the presence of Toxy could’ve been a little unsettling for my child, as we are not pet parents.
After the greetings, when my son walked over to gently pat Toxy, he suddenly began barking, which made my son frightful and he ran towards me, all scared. Well, he wasn’t afraid of dogs before, but yes, he never had such close interaction too. I didn’t want a new phobia to settle in his mind, so I allowed him to calm down and after a few minutes, asked him to come with me. Toxy loves playing with kids, and we took a ball for him, sat beside him, and petted him gently. I could see my son getting comfortable, as Toxy began to wag his tail. After the initial 3-4 minutes of convincing, my son became a little more comfortable, though he was cautious at the same time.
This incident taught me something vital: do not feed fear; rather encourage kids to face fears.
The fear of darkness, fear of bugs, fear of water, all these are some real fears for young children. As parents, we’re always there to soothe kids and accommodate their “fears”. But kids should not get the message that my mama or papa will be there to comfort me always. That way, children will not be able to work on their fears independently.
As parents, we have a larger role: to help children confront their fears gradually, so they can learn to deal with them on their own. We need to make children aware that they can face their fears, which will in turn help boost their confidence.
Ways to encourage kids to face fears:
1. Introduce Role models:
When learning about how to encourage kids to face fears, the best way is to introduce a role model. This is what I did, to re-introduce my son to Toxy, in a much calming environment, which made him believe that he is a nice and playful dog.
Some age-appropriate books and movies showcase how a child can deal with his/her fears. Such stories motivate children to overcome their fears and give them the confidence to face their anxieties.
2. Talk to your child:
When your child is calm, talk to him, and understand what is frightening him. I remember when I asked my son what made him feel scared of Toxy, all he could say was, “Mama, he barked at me. I’m afraid that he would bite me”. At times, children are aware of the reason and at times they aren’t. Fear of the dark is real for many children. Try asking, what makes it scary? We need to understand where they’re coming from, talk to them. Make a plan with your child.
3. Do it gradually:
If your child fears dark, he/she will certainly not walk into a dark room all of a sudden and sleep on his/her own. Be with them for some time in their room, and then turn off the lights when your child sleeps. Continue this process for a few days, until your child feels comfortable enough to sleep in the room all by himself. Be patient, that’s the motto!
4. Encourage them:
Little encouragement is important. “It was brave of you to try once again and make friends with Toxy. See, you’re petting him lovingly and now Toxy is playing with you”. Praising your child’s efforts to confront their fear makes them feel more confident. Tell your child that you know as a parent that he/she can do it. My son loves stickers and tattoos, so I make sure to give him a sticker.
5. Be Empathetic:
Empathy goes a long way when it comes to dealing with kids’ fears and anxieties. For us, children’s fears might sound mystifying. We, as adults might have fear different things, but making a mockery of a child’s fears will hinder their confidence. We sit in the balcony and discuss/ talk about challenges while my toddler sips on his glass of PediaSure. It is one of our favorite things to do – him with his glass of milk and me with my cup of tea, as we talk about our day. Drinking his favorite beverage with me, we both talk about things that matter and bond. We need to provide kids with the right support, mentally and emotionally.
As a mom, I feel that the best thing we can do for our children is to help them face their fears. As they develop a very important life skill of accepting the challenges and developing a sense of confidence by overcoming it.
The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not reflect the views of any brand. Any omissions or errors at the author’s end does not assume any liability or responsibility on any party mentioned in the blog.