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Dealing with Fear

Parents' Guide to Childhood Fear

All children are different, so there are no strict rules for assessing their fears. In general though, if a child's fear seems age-appropriate and doesn't interfere with everyday life, it's probably normal.

Most childhood fears disappear or diminish with time and experience. If a child continues to harbor a fear long after others have outgrown it, or if it's severe, the fear may have developed into a phobia. If a child regularly goes to great lengths to avoid a feared object or situation, it may be time to seek professional counseling or treatment.

Adults can help children move past their fears. But there are right and wrong ways to go about this. Here are some tips that experts recommend to keep you on the right track:

  • DON'T belittle children for their fears. Remember that to them, these fears are very real and serious.
  • DO talk to children about their fears. In the case of unreasonable fears, try to help children understand that they really have nothing to fear.
  • DON'T force children to confront their fears.
  • DO encourage kids to face their fears, taking incremental steps. With time and exposure, children will often begin to feel less afraid.
  • DON'T cater to fear. Allowing children to completely avoid the things that scare them is likely to maintain or worsen their fears.
  • DO help children prepare for the exposure by talking about what they might expect and positive ways of coping with fear.
  • DON'T overreact to your own fears, if possible. Be aware that children often develop fears by watching their parents' fearful reactions.
  • DO talk to kids about your own fears if you have developed positive methods for dealing with them.

PLEASE NOTE: The information presented on this site should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a healthcare professional.