Helping children face their fears takes time, patience and a strategy.
I was feeding the ducks with my two year old granddaughter at El Dorado Park in Old Town Scottsdale, when a City landscaping truck suddenly began it’s loud safety back-up beeping noise. For a year after that, she was terrified of trucks and loud noises and had to be held whenever she heard a truck go by, even if she was inside.
Use these six tips to help your child cope with severe fears.
1. Take your child’s fear seriously. Don’t make light of it or dismiss it.
2. Help children learn more about what they’re fearful of by reading about them or watching videos.
This may help them face their fears. Having your child go outside on cloudy and rainy days may help if they’re afraid of severe weather. I took my granddaughter on field trips to construction sites. Mr French, the foreman at the renovation of the Rosen House in North Tempe, was very friendly and explained how the backhoe and grader worked together to level the road to the house. We also watched youtube videos of construction equipment and visited a yard full of construction vehicles on Rio Salado in Tempe West of the 101 Freeway. We got library books and bought books about trucks.
3. Be warm and supportive. Tell children, for example, if they’re afraid of severe weather, that thunder and lightning won’t hurt them and that storms are a normal part of nature.
4. Talk about the things they’re afraid of matter-of-factly. Don’t overemphasize dramatic or frightening stories.
5. Expose your child to what he fears in small, nonthreatening doses and be patient and sympathetic.
6. What if you have an unresolved fear, and you don’t want to pass it on to your child? Like spiders. The human brain responds to facts, details and knowledge. Learn with your child about spiders. Watch youtube videos and look for spider webs together.
I’m happy to say my granddaughter’s favorite toys are now trucks, and for several months, she had to sleep with Lightning McQueen, the tow-truck from the Cars movie.