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Friday, November 10, 2017

How To Help Prevent Childhood Fears

Many childhood fears are pretty common across the board: fear of the dark, fear of scary scenes in movies, fear of fast rides, fear of dogs, fear of being alone etc etc. Rather than waiting until your child expresses these fears and then trying to find a solution for them, there are ways to help prevent the fears in the first place. Easing their minds and keeping your life easier!


No Night Lights

A very, very common fear children have is being afraid of the dark. This is such a common fear that parents often start off their children with night lights from birth. Growing up I was such a child who feared the dark. Even now if my husband travels I leave a couple lights on so I feel safer.

This is a fear I didn't want my children to have. It's not fun feeling fearful. I am also nearsighted and have read that vision issues can come from sleeping with a light on. If I could prevent my children from being fearful of the dark and possibly help their vision too? I was all for it.

Sleeping is a time of rest. We don't need lights on. Our bodies sleep best if it's dark and it's the best way for our mind to recognize that it's time to sleep. With our children we've never allowed night lights. This helps them sleep well from infancy and has truly minimized any fears of the dark.

When those moments of "Mommy it's too dark" occur I will leave on a hall light. This allows them to see a bit of light to ease those fears but is a light source that I control. I will leave it on just for a little bit (even just for 10-15 min) and then turn it off. It's never become any sort of habit and has helped prevent fears of the dark!

Exposure

When we're around something often, we become more comfortable and less likely to fear it. I grew up around animals so I never had any fears of dogs or cats or other household pets. We only own small dogs in our home but I try to be sure to introduce my children to large dogs when given the opportunity and in the proper setting.

Don't want your children afraid of heights? Take them to higher places at a young age. Go on a hike. Fly in an airplane. Exposure to circumstances that can often be fearful helps to prevent those fears from ever developing.

Preparation

Along with exposure comes preparation. Many children are afraid of the dentist or they are afraid of starting school for the first time. These types of fears are easily prevented through preparation. Take your child to see the school, talk about it excitedly with them. I personally love to purchase books on various topics to help my children go into new settings and situations well prepared.

Talk to your child about the change or transition or situation in advance. I believe firmly in setting kids up for success by positive words. Don't warn them that something is scary, prepare them by explaining the positive aspects. Help them know what to expect but allow them to dictate in that moment how they feel about it.

When it comes to rides we like to get our kids pumped about it. We sing the Pirates of the Caribbean song anytime we're in the dark with our kids as it's a dark ride and we want them to love it so be singing that song they equate the darkness with the pirates ride and have zero fears of the ride when they actually get to ride it. We don't say "this ride is super dark and there is a big scary drop!" We sing the song and talk it up and get them excited. During scary scenes in movies we will point out how the character is handling the situation or what may be coming up ahead to fix the problem.

Thinking ahead and knowing situations that may cause your children to be fearful can help you prevent those fears and anxieties by preparing them as much as possible.

Time Away

A common fear children (and mother's alike!) have is leaving their parents. I have many friends who worry about leaving their children for any amount of time and often their children are also fearful when Mommy is away.

A great way to help prevent that separation anxiety is to take time away from your children from birth. Even if it's just going to Target for an hour or running a quick errand. Find childcare you trust (Yes, hubby is great but a non-parent is even better for their ability to feel comfortable) and then TRUST that childcare!

I travel away from my babies pretty early on in their lives. I have found that I miss them and have a harder time with that distance than they EVER do. They enjoy the break and have so much fun with their grandparents and cousins. A break away can be beneficial for everyone and will help them feel more comfortable in times where you have to be separated.

Setting Example

So many childhood fears stem from seeing US acting fearful. Children feed off our example. Take the time to really reflect on yourself. What things are YOU fearful of? Even if you don't consider it a fear...what brings you feelings of anxiety?

None of us want our children to be limited and fears and anxieties limit us. As a parent we don't want to pass down the things that hold us back to our children. Figure out where you struggle and work on minimizing that impact on your children. Obviously conquering those fears yourself would set an awesome example for your children...but even just "faking it till you make it" can go a LONG way!

It's natural to be nervous for your child's first day of school, but hold those tears in and plant a big smile on your face. Be excited for them and they will feed off that excitement and ease into the classroom setting in a natural way.

Knowing Yourself 

Sometimes our fears DO limit us. Sometimes we simply can't put that happy smile on our face and fake it. And that's okay.

I, for example, don't like needles. I don't want my children to have my same issues with needles and shots and such. I knew when we started having babies that I couldn't handle seeing them get their shots at the dr. I knew my anxiety would make them more anxious and would cause them to carry on my fears.

Knowing myself allowed me to recognize where help was needed. My husband goes to all the shot appointments. I step out and he handles it. It's something he's not fearful of and his handling of it from birth with our kids has made them SO brave when it comes to shots! They are now a good example to ME ;)

Ideally we'd all be able to face our fears and work through them and beat them...but it's okay to know and recognize where you need help.

Trust

Raising our children to know they have us and trust us is HUGE. As a Christian, I also believe that trust in the Lord is so, so crucial for my children. They know they can pray ANYTIME they feel fearful. They trust that God will protect them and that Mommy and Daddy will too.

Follow through with your promises. Be a sounding board and support system for those times when fears do happen. Knowing you are in their corner helps them to better conquer fears in the future.

How does the saying go? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Preventing fears takes a lot of thought and time and effort, but it gives our children such freedom from fears that can hold them back!

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