“Sometimes emotions can be our worst enemies, but they can also be our best friends.” How many times have I said this sentence to children or, in its adult version, to parents and adults. And depending on how we treat them, our own emotions can cause us great discomfort or help us better adapt to the environment.
Fear in particular has the function of protecting us from these situations which can be dangerous. But sometimes it can backfire, preventing us from doing what we want and causing great discomfort. Fathers and mothers have a double challenge as they must both manage their emotions and pass them on to their children, and may struggle with one or both tasks, sometimes resulting in great discomfort for the whole family.
Facing fear from childhood
Fear occurs at seven months of age, usually occurring at loud noises or heights. With the development of children, the perception of the world changes, finding new and previously unknown stimuli, this brings up other fears.
So, for example, with the onset of symbolic play and the development of mental representations, the fear of darkness and ghosts appears, and may have difficulty sleeping alone, even having already done so.
This onset of fears associated with child development are called evolutionary fears, and they are associated with this adaptation to novelty. Below is a summary of the most important ones.
During the first year of life, fears that arise are loud noises, loss of physical support, strangers, and separation.
From the first year, fear of small animals or insects may appear, in addition to various natural phenomena, such as thunder and thunderstorms. Additionally, they are often afraid of separating from primary attachment figures, such as parents, and this separation anxiety or anxiety usually appears around age two.
Between two and a half and six years old, the fear of darkness, ghosts and loneliness appearsmay also be afraid of other animals.
Then come the fears related to health, physical and bodily harm, which appear from the age of six. The fear of death and certain school fears are also relevant.
During pre-adolescence (11-13 years), the most important fears are social; the embarrassment has already appeared and the child may have had to adapt to certain social problems, but it is at this age that self-image and school-related fears are most relevant.
In adolescence, academic and social fears persist, but they focus more on interpersonal relationships, fears of personal identity, and personal performance.
These fears appear with the development of the child and also disappear with his development when he learns that these situations (for example, sleeping alone) are not really dangerous. But if they face this situation unprepared, either because they don’t feel supported or capable, or because we don’t allow them to face it. it can cause problems in different areas of your life.
Guidelines and tips
Follow these parenting tips and recommendations.
1. Help the child identify the emotion
you have to help him Defining and understanding how you feel can mean you understand better and reduce feelings of self-control.
2. Listen to it and validate the emotion
As parents, we don’t want our children to feel uncomfortable and sometimes to that end we use phrases such as “don’t be afraid” or “if nothing happens”. However, these phrases do not allow you to create skills related to your fear, and we can achieve the opposite effect.
Instead of these sentences, we can use others like “I know you’re scared” or “tell me what can happen” which it can make you feel heard and understood. After all, we can all be afraid and these are human emotions, they shouldn’t feel bad for feeling it and they shouldn’t be “accepted or allowed” to have it.
3. Normalize having and dealing with fear
It is normal that in situations unknown until then we do not know how to react and that we have to prepare ourselves, and that facing this situation costs us first. Share a situation in which we were afraidespecially if we have managed to overcome it, with the previous guidelines, it can help the child to identify himself, not to see himself as a stranger, contributing to better self-esteem and motivating himself to face fear.
Another option that we can use for this purpose is a story, there are many on the market both specifically aimed at fear and emotions in general, in addition, there are stories for specific fears.
4. Encourage him to try to face the fear
It is important to understand that the goal is to learn to relate to fear as it is, an alarm or an emotion that allows us to be attentive to possible danger. However, this possible alert should not control our actions and decide for us. It’s something children can learn, normalize the emotion of fear by understanding why it happens and what they can do to resolve it properly.
On the other hand, this should be done gradually or with an appropriate intensity scale coping with the stimulus or situation that causes the fear, because if the child is forced into a situation that causes intense fear and is not allowed to “escape”, it can have the effect opposite of what we would like. At the PsicoAlmería Psychology Center we have established specific guidelines for each case and we have managed to eliminate the fears and learning that must lead to these early ages.
5. Facing fear together
There will be situations where the above guidelines will not suffice, need us to accompany him first or an object that creates security for you. This aid should be withdrawn as the child feels able to do so on his own.
6. Take it easy
If he can’t cope with this situation, we can set small goals. This will make it easier for you to overcome your fears and achieve success.
7. Evaluate successes and failures
It is very important that we appreciate any approach they take to achieve the goal we have. It can be done with prizes, both with small prizes in the approaches and with a big one in case of obtaining the final goal, but what you should never forget is to express to how proud and happy we are that you faced your fear, regardless of whether he succeeded or not, so he will keep trying and we can increase his chances of surpassing himself. Verbal reinforcement of a minor always has more positive consequences than material reward.
Do you need professional help?
If the fear persists, we realize that he has a lot of discomfort or we do not see ourselves capable of offering the child the tools necessary to face his fear, it is recommended to go see a professional as the psychologists of PsychoAlmeria.
These will help both the child and ourselves to better manage our emotions. The ultimate goal will be for the child to identify his emotions, to understand them, to learn from them without rejecting them until the fear disappears and to improve his self-image.
At PsicoAlmería, the psychologist María del Mar Jodar García will be able to help the child or adolescent overcome the situation they are going through, always understanding that each person is different and thus adapting the therapy to their situation. Sessions can be face-to-face and online.