20 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Fear

One of a series of First Day of School images, showing a young girl going through the emotions of getting on the bus for the first time.

All children develop fears while growing up. 

Whether they grow into more serious problems, or not, depends largely on how parents and the other adults in their lives handle the situation. 

Here are a few do’s and don'ts for helping children cope with fear.

Do

1.Listen intently to them when they casually mention their fear or want to talk about it.

2. Accept the fact that the fears are real to them, even the imaginary ones. Allow them to have their feelings. The real and imaginary need to be given the same con- sideration.

3. Educate them regarding the situation. The unknown causes fear and they may just be lacking complete information. Use books, pictures or videos to help them under- stand.

4. Comfort them and give them the support they need during the period of these fears. Many fears will be overcome in a few weeks or several months; however, during this period be extra sensitive to their feelings and give extra support.

5. Teach them that God promises to be with us. Isaiah 43:5 says, “Have no fear, for I am with you.” The promise is that God will be with us at all times even in difficult situations.

6. Pray with them regarding their fears.

7. Give an extra measure of love and security at this time. Extra family time would be beneficial. Be sure both parents are agreed on how to handle the situation.

8. Plan ahead what is to be taken in a suitcase in case of evacuation. Be certain that photographs and key keepsakes are taken. Such things generally should take precedence over clothes. Don't forget to plan ahead for the care of pets.

9. Leave responsibly. As far as possible help them built a RAFT—reconciliation, affirmation, farewell, think destination.

10. Debrief children after a crisis to let them tell their story and reveal any wrong as- sumptions, fears, personal blaming, etc. Parents can help reframe the crisis for their children.

Don’t

1.Laugh and tell them it is silly to feel fearful.

2. Ignore fear and just hope it will go away.

3. Fuss over the fear and give it lots of attention.

4. Compare them with others who may not be afraid.

5. Instill fear in them by dwelling upon all the tragedies that are happening in the world every day.

6. Allow them to see your fears uncontrolled. Fears are mimicked. Don't overreact! Parents, teachers and caregivers will experience turmoil and stress, but avoid displaying a greater sense of distress than is warranted.

7. Display a great measure of apprehension in ways that would substantiate their fears.

8. Make promises that you may not be able to keep, such as, promising to return to the country after evacuation.

9. Downplay or deny the realities of the situation in inappropriate ways. Children know when something is happening. Dishonesty about the situation will only increase their fear.

10. Over-spiritualize the situation. Strike a healthy balance

Based on Sojourners: The Family on the Move, A Book of Resources by R. J. Rowen & S. F. Rowen, pp. 165-176, Farmington, MI: Associates of Urbanus, 1990

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