Parenting In Focus: Managing your child’s fears | #parenting

Many children develop fears — and not just at this time of year when Halloween comes along.

They are fearful of monsters, bugs, being alone, becoming lost and even of the dark.

One way to help your child overcome his fear is talking; see if he will talk about what scares him. The mere act of talking about his fears will help him feel better.

Talking is a very helpful way to comfort and love your child. It is also a proven way to teach your child lessons in life.

An important part of talking with your child is listening. There will be times your child can not tell you why he is upset or scared. He just is. To comfort him, you do not even need to know what caused the problem. He just needs you to be there for him.

This is a great lesson for years to come. Many times your child will be unable or perhaps unwilling to tell you the problems; however, he just needs you to be there for him.

Comfort in reading

Another way to help him overcome his fear is with books. For the very young child, a book like “The Runaway Bunny” will be reassuring to him.

Some books use humor to help him laugh at fearsome things. These are best for slightly over children (3 and older) who can understand the humor. “A Halloween Mask for Monster” — a great book for Halloween — and “Franklin in the Dark” are good ones to read and talk about with your child.

Another kind of book for children at about age 4 shows the character overcoming his fear. “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Nightmare in my Closet” and “Brave Irene” tell how characters fight their fears.

You want to be sure that your child doesn’t become more fearful because of the books you read with him, so check to see if the book is appropriate for him.

Fear and anxiety

Your child wants independence as soon as he is old enough to crawl, yet when you are ready to leave him he may become fearful and even tearful as he is filled with fear and anxiety. Remember, he is very young and has a limited memory and is not able to see into the future very well. He really isn’t sure if you are going to come back.

There are some things you can do to help him with his separation anxiety. Start long before you leave to play games like peek-a-boo or other hiding games to help him get used to you being gone and to teach him you will be back.

Make your first trips short ones. They teach him you will return. It also helps to tell him when you are coming back and be sure to come back at that time.

Don’t sneak out. You want him to trust what you say you will do.

The key to calming your child’s fears is talking together. Your hugs and reassurance are very important not just on this subject but on many.

Far too frequently we ignore how important the interaction you have with your child is to him. You are teaching him about love, trust and honesty.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to or call 360-681-2250.

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