Fear is an unpleasant feeling of dread in the face of imminent danger, real or imagined. It is often felt to be a situation in which there is little control and whose negative consequences must be avoided at all costs.
It is one of the most basic emotions present in all cultures and despite the negative connotation attributed to it. In reality, what underlies it is the feeling of survival.
Fear keeps us alive as it induces us to avoid circumstances in which we expose ourselves to physical, emotional, or life-threatening harm. The stimuli that generate fear vary from person to person and will depend on their experiences and the environment in which they operate.
Most common childhood fears
Childhood fears are part of the learning and development process. A child who is not afraid of, for example, insects, heights, or water, could seriously injure himself or die from exposure to dangerous situations. Fear is learned through three mechanisms:
- By observation as children learn to fear what their parents and those around them fear
- By classical conditioning or by the association of a stimulus with an unpleasant consequence
- Cultural fear that are fears common to all cultures that tend to manifest themselves under certain circumstances
Despite the fact that fear is an essential part of life, parents have a duty to help children manage their emotions and learn to deal with them. Otherwise, they could become phobias or interfere with the development of your self-esteem.
Next, let’s see what the most common childhood fears are.
Fear of the dark
It is one of the most frequent and usually appears around two years old. The child may have trouble sleeping and be uncomfortable being alone in his room at bedtime.
In addition to explaining that the night can be beautiful and that in the dark the stars are better appreciated, a good option is to place a night light in the child’s room.
A wide variety of models are available on the market with features that will adapt to your needs and those of your little one.
Fear of unknown people
The child is manifestly uncomfortable in situations where he must interact with strangers or people he barely knows.
It is a very useful fear as it could protect your child from associating with strangers and agreeing to leave with them.
You can help by staying close when you have to interact with those friends or family that are unfamiliar to you. If he sees you acting relaxed in the presence of those “strangers,” he will understand that they are part of the people he can trust as you do.
Fear of monsters
Children may be afraid of people in disguise and of television shows featuring monsters.
One way to help him deal with this fear is to explain to him what a costume is and to show him that, beneath the monstrous appearance, there is a person like him who is not to be feared.
If the fear of monsters appears at bedtime, a good solution is to check with him under the bed, in the closet and in those places where monsters can “hide.” We can also talk for a while or read a story. Another good option is to install a safety light that allows you to make sure there is nothing to fear.
Fear of storms
It usually appears between three and four years old. The sound of thunder, wind, and rain falling on the roof can cause fear, especially at bedtime.
The first thing that will occur to you is to let him sleep with you, but it is best to accompany him in his room, explain to him that storms are normal, natural phenomena and even beneficial for crops and forest animals. This can help you deal with this fear that will gradually go away.
Afraid of water
Some babies reject bath time and by creating a warm and pleasant atmosphere, it is possible to mitigate this discomfort, but there are children who fear to go into the sea or the pool.
Gradually entering the water, giving you time to get used to the temperature, put muffs on it, sing your favorite song, and keep you steady during the process will help you overcome your fears and enjoy the experience.
Fear of separation
It is one of the baby’s first fears, which is altered when his parents try to leave him with someone else. Crying, tantrums and a lot of anxiety characterize this childhood fear.
Create a farewell ritual, stay calm, explain to the child that you will return and when you will see in terms that he can understand. For example, at mealtime or before bed. This will help them deal with these difficult goodbyes.
What you should never do is “disappear,” leave without warning, or return because he cries when you have already said goodbye.
Sleeping away from home, fear of animals, shadows, insects, going to the doctor or dentist are other common fears in children. Their fears change as they grow.
The important thing is that we be consistent and patient, respect the process that the child goes through, recognize that it is valid to feel fear. Never make jokes or try to ridicule him about what he fears, nor force him to face the origin of his fears abruptly and suddenly.
Explaining, informing, telling her about the experience before facing it, having patience and staying calm are the most appropriate ways to help you deal with your worst.