Fear is a part of growing up but some fears remain with you all your life that affect you and your life. So, it is important that you learn how to overcome these fears early on in life. Now, not all fears are the same and need not be overcome if they do not affect their life in any way. For example fear of watching a horror movie is not going to make any changes in the way your child lives, it is simply their way of telling that this is their choice and they don’t want to watch them. But a fear like the fear of darkness is something they need to understand how to deal with because such fears affect their life and will hamper their confidence. Here are some tips that you can use to help them overcome their fears.
You stay calm
It is hard to see your child go through a tough spot in life and as a parent all you can think of is how can you make it better for them. And especially if it is a simple thing like going with them to the bathroom in the dark, but what you need to understand is that though this will temporarily fix the problem for them it will leave marks on them their whole life. They will forever be dependent on you for emotional support. Now, it doesn’t mean that you don’t help them at all, just help them in the right way- a way that will help them overcome their fears themselves and make them independent.
So, next time when your child is afraid do not help them in masking the fear, instead control the impulse and help them in finding their own solution.
Help them self-regulate
Even as adults we are sometimes (most of the time) afraid but now suddenly we can face them and make them go away. This is not the result of some magic spell that is cast over when we become adults, we just learn to self- regulate. We tell ourselves ‘it is okay, you can get through this’. But for children it is harder to do it. It is harder for them to self -regulate as they do not know how to process this and this is where you come in.
Don’t do their work for them, help them to learn how to do it themselves.
Sometimes the easiest solutions are the hardest to understand. Many problems can be solved by talking and yet is the least used option. To help your child overcome their fear you have to first gain their trust and you will certainly not gain it by saying that their fear is ‘not that big a deal’ or ‘that is nothing to worry about’. Instead, let them know that you are taking them seriously and that you don’t think they are just being silly. Try saying to them that ‘I hear you buddy’ or ‘a lot of kids have this fear’.
Talk to them about the fear and what exactly is it that instilled this fear in them. For example if it is the fear about any animal, ask them why exactly do they fear it? Did some animal chase them or hurt them? Once you know what the root cause is you can make up a plan.
Make a plan
Discuss with your child the best way to overcome this fear. Remember change does not happen in a day. You have to be patient and keep working on it. Make a plan for a month where you gradually help them in facing their fears. If they are afraid of an animal you can’t just start with step one to be ‘go and play with them’. Start small like being in the same room with that animal for a while. Next can be being in the same room for a longer time. And then they can try to pet the animal (if it is an animal like a cat or a dog). And then play with them.
Keep telling them that they are doing a good job. Keep supporting them. Remember that every small achievement is still an achievement and worthy of acknowledging. Don’t dismiss their small steps and discourage them. Keep telling them that they are doing a good job and that they are being very brave. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in building someone’s confidence. Help your child build that confidence so that they can navigate this world by themselves.
Sometimes it is helpful for children to know that there is a way out even if their worst fears come true. Make contingency plans with them to tackle the fear head on should it one day actually happen. For example, if they fear being left alone somewhere or getting lost then you can help them overcome this fear by making plans for the worst case scenario like find the nearest police station or ask someone for help. In such situations it gives them great confidence if they have remembered your phone numbers so that they can call you.
Start with you
It helps children to know that they aren’t the only ones who are afraid of something. You can help them by also being on a journey to overcome your fears. So if there are any fears you have locked up somewhere in your mind never to face again then now is a good time to face them to help your own child overcome their fear. Your children look up to you, so when they see you tackle your own demons they will be inspired to tackle their own.
Introduce them to role models
Role models don’t necessarily have to be a superhero, they can be anyone who has overcome their fears. There are many such inspiring stories that they can find easily in children’s books or TV shows. Help them find their role model, someone they can look up to in a time when they need them the most.