Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Raising Children With Appropriate Fear Responses, Not Modeling Phobias

Kids look at adults when encountering something unusual that might be fearful, but we can help them engage in appropriate behavior.

A crucial part of fostering children’s emotional development is teaching them how to respond to fear in the appropriate way while avoiding mimicking phobias. Without instilling unreasonable or excessive concerns, it involves assisting youngsters in understanding and responding to fear in a healthy and balanced manner. Here are seven methods to do this:

1. Inform kids about the importance of fear and how it keeps them safe. Inform them that fear is a normal reaction to perceived danger and that it can aid them in making wise decisions.

2. You can convey the concept of dread using age-appropriate novels, films, or articles, for instance. For instance, Todd Parr’s “The Emotions Book” offers a vivid and interesting introduction to several emotions, including dread.

3. Promote free communication by creating a secure setting where kids can voice their anxieties without fear of repercussion. Pay close attention to their worries, and then reassure and support them.

4. Take the fear of the dark as an illustration. When your child shares this worry, listen to their worries and talk about ways to deal with it. Parenting for Brain and other websites provide guidance on how to foster open communication with kids.

5. Healthy examples of how to handle fear are best illustrated by handling your own fears and worries in a calm manner. In this way, you can show others how to respond to fear appropriately. This encourages kids to follow your lead and learn positive coping skills. Unfortunately, many adults fail to see the effect they have on kids. I know someone who learned to fear even ladybugs because her mother became so upset at seeing one.

6. Take one thing that many people fear, such as spiders or other bugs. If you’re frightened of spiders, you should gently remove the spider or call for help rather than freaking out. This demonstrates to kids that worries can be addressed without having to take drastic measures.

7. Exposing children to their concerns in a controlled way while utilizing age-appropriate techniques is known as “gradual exposure.” This method of systematic desensitization aids in children’s resilience development and helps them get over unreasonable anxieties. A parent I know took his young son to a pet park, where the boy learned that even large snakes (such as a yellow python) can be harmless. They took photos with the snake to have at home as a reminder that some snakes are harmless, and others need to be avoided.

If a youngster is afraid of dogs, start by showing them photographs of dogs, then go on to movies of dogs, and lastly, expose them to a nice, calm dog in a safe environment. This is a well-known behavioral technique used in therapy for dog phobia. A young boy, who received a pet mouse, grew to love the little creature so much that he became a veterinarian when he reached adulthood.

8. Teach relaxation skills to assist children in learning how to handle their anxiety and terror. Exercises that involve deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation can all help reduce anxiety.

Another website that is useful and contains helpful exercises for kids is “Calm Kids”, which provides children with guided breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises that are age-appropriate.

9. Encourage a positive outlook by helping kids avoid concentrating on their worries by encouraging them to focus on the positive aspects of their experiences. Encourage them to adopt a growth attitude by stressing that failures and errors are opportunities to improve.

For instance, if a youngster is fearful of failing, acknowledge their effort and perseverance in overcoming difficulties, reinforcing the notion that failures are a normal part of learning.

10. Create a welcoming social atmosphere to provide children with friends and classmates who react to fear in a healthy way as positive role models. Promote relationships that foster empathy, teamwork, and emotional health.

A sports team or a volunteer organization are two examples of groups or activities that expose kids to positive social settings and promote collaboration and teamwork. And, remember, that teamwork later in their adulthood will be useful in whatever work or creative activities in which they engage. Teams are valuable in this way.

Last, of all, keep in mind that every child is different, so it’s crucial to adapt these strategies to each one’s specific demands and phases of development. You may support children’s resilience and mental well-being by encouraging appropriate fear reactions and avoiding modeling phobias.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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