What are children scared of?

What is fear?  Fear is often described as a feeling of discomfort induced by a perceived threat or danger. What does fear do? When your child wakes up at night is it due to fear? Is fear a contributing factor when they fail in their examination? How do children react to fears? What are children scared of and what do they have in common?

Plenty- they might all be typical childhood or teenage anxieties and fears. According to Sheryl Ankrom, “fear and anxiety both produce similar responses to certain danger.” Fear is real and the response to a known or definite threat, whereas anxiety is imagination and a response to an unknown danger.

Is it normal for a child to have fear? It is normal to be afraid sometimes. Things that are new, big, loud or different may seem scary or make them feel anxious at first. Parents can help them feel safe and make them learn to be at ease, with constant support. What do children feel afraid of?  The causes of fear may change as the child grows up.

A toddler’s world is surrounded by parental security and a sense of calm. Anything that interrupts that- a loud noise or a stranger, creates fear. Once a child reaches a particular age, they form strong attachments with their parents. Separation from their loved ones, even for short periods of time, can cause anxiety which may result in plenty of crying. Allow them to get to know new people under your protection and let them see that you know the new person is friendly. Strong bonding with your child creates a foundation of trust, helping to inoculate your child against future anxiety, too.

As their world expands, pre-schoolers become more comfortable with new places and people. New exposures have an unexpected impact on the child, some of this is the result of painful recurring experiences and lead to fear. Some of the fear can be induced from their developing imagination. According to Darcy Lyness, children have a greater ability to imagine and pretend. “To them, the scary monsters they imagine seem real.” They are anxious about what might be under their bed at night. Children might also be afraid of loud noises, like thunder or fireworks.

Parents can help them understand and provide tools to help them gradually face their fears. To make it exciting, read bedtime stories- fairy tales or picture books. With you there to support, let your child see there’s nothing to fear.

When a child gets older, monsters under the bed don’t seem to scare them anymore because they know they’re not real. As a child learns more about the world, the list of things they fear tends to change and grow. An explosion of knowledge and experience during the school years introduces children to more real-world dangers- snakes or spiders, death, injury/illness or a doctor’s visit and fear of rejection. They fear the pain of real or imagined loss. Parents can head off children’s fears, by talking about things like sharks and lions in ways that put their danger in context. A documentary or picture book on poisonous snakes can be fascinating instead of frightening them.

When teenagers leave home, they are seeing the world very differently than they saw before. Children have fewer fears as they get older, but they can be more intense. Parents of adolescents and young teenagers often need to put on their detective caps when it comes to discerning a fear in their child, a teenager may hide it and concern must be raised if you notice your child is avoiding a particular situation. Above all, three fears have manifested the loudest and lasted the longest- fear of the future, fear of failure, and the fear of being left out. So, what can you do about it? How can you help them overcome their fears? Parents can teach them to put their trust in the right place, prepare them for difficulty, encourage them with their experience.

Fear is a normal thing in children as it sets a boundary and gives them a certain sense of awareness, which is necessary. It is natural for fear to change and grow as a child develops. Parents can use the best possible tools- emotional support or professional intervention for them to lead the best possible life. All we can do is respect the child’s fear and empower the child for a happy and healthy future.

References:

  1. Article title: The Difference Between Fear and Anxiety

         Website title:  Verywell Mind

  1. Article title: Normal Childhood Fears (for Parents)

         Website title:  Kidshealth.org

 

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