If you have ever experienced anxiety, you know that it can be overwhelming, confusing, and frightening. The way children experience anxiety is no different.
Fear is a basic emotion for every human being.
It’s absolutely normal to feel anxious or worried at times; in fact, fear can even be helpful. It sends warning messages to your body to act quickly and remove yourself from danger. While it may be difficult for an adult to understand the fears of young children, those anxieties can seem very real and scary particularly to a child between the ages of three and six.
As a parent, the best approach you can take in helping to soothe your child’s fears is to first model calmness and reassurance.
Then, follow a few of these steps:
- Teach them that anxiety is normal and that everyone experiences it.
- Encourage them to talk about what they are afraid of. Avoid minimizing or dismissing their fears- no matter how irrational they may seem to you.
- Encourage self soothing behaviors such as snuggling with a favorite toy. Have him/her say “I am brave, I am not afraid”.
- Teach relaxation skills such as deep breathing, or visualization by having them close their eyes and picture themselves in a safe and happy place.
- Slow down: Don’t rush your child to “get over it”. If fears are around bedtime, read an extra story, let them talk, stay with them a little longer to soothe their anxiety.
If your child is experiencing prolonged fears or phobias that are affecting them socially, academically, emotionally, or causing physical symptoms, it could be time to seek professional help.
Written by: Michelle Rathburn, LMFT