Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dogs and Ghostly Ghouls: Managing Your Child's Fears

All children experience fear during their earliest years—fear of strangers, heights, dogs, or ghostly ghouls. This is all part of normal development!* Often, these fears coincide with periods of rapid growth and learning. Here, the child learns to manage new-found information and abilities.

In his book entitled Touchpoints: The Essential Reference: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton offers the following recommendations on how to help your child deal with his/her fears:
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  1. Listen closely and respectfully to what your child tells you about his/her fears.
  2. Support your child as s/he learns how to cope with fears (e.g. clutching to a favorite blanket or toy). Your child will eventually grow out of this.
  3. Help your child understand that s/he is experiencing fear because s/he is learning about many new and sometimes scary things.
  4. Let your child know that all children experience fears at some point. Consider talking about your childhood fear and how you learned to overcome it. Be sure to speak to your child in words s/he can understand.
  5. Regularly spend one-on-one time with your child. This will increase the likelihood of your child opening up to you about any anxieties s/he may have.
  6. Acknowledge when your child effectively faces or overcomes a fear. Celebrate the successes! This can give your child a sense of confidence and control in a seemingly scary situation.

* If your child's fears substantially impact his/her daily living or last long periods of time (i.e. six or more months), consider seeking professional support.

Source: Brazelton, T. Berry. Touchpoints: The Essential Reference: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development. Reading: Perseus Books, 1992. Print.

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