When children have fears and phobias, it is necessary to know how to work on them from home to help children overcome them. In the midst of high levels of anxiety, the part of the brain that can rationalize and use logic to feel safe will not be working properly. For this reason, the best time to work on a fear or phobia is during calm moments.
When you are calm, all parties are more flexible and receptive to any information that is presented, more open to trying something different and being able to overcome the obstacles that moments before were hindering him. But how can you help a child who has phobias or fears? Don’t miss out on some of the most effective strategies.
Younger children are still learning how the world works. They find the meaning of things thanks to cause and effect – although sometimes the effect that follows the cause is not so obvious. It might be obvious to you that storms won’t end the world, but kids need information. For example, if your child is afraid of storms, talk to them about what lightning and thunder are, how they are formed, how they are produced… give them all the information they need -and that they understand- so that they can feel safe.
Do not overreact
Your reaction is very important and also that you validate what your child feels, so you should not overreact when afraid. If you react badly every time your child gets scared, you may be letting him know that there really is something to be afraid of. You could also be letting him know that the only way to feel safe is in your arms.
Your arms will always be his favorite place, but let the hug be the reward for brave behavior not inadvertent avoidance behavior. Instead of comforting them too much, it’s best to gently talk to them about what they’re seeing so they can make sense of it.
You work in the present but project into the future
Phobias are a combination of what has happened in the past – for example a child may to be afraid of dogs because he was attacked by one in the past- and in the future -not all dogs attack-. When children suffer from fears or phobias and work in the present, it is important to deal with the generalization of the frightening event and also about others that are similar to it. In this way, you can talk about the differences between one thing or another and that the little one can see with perspective what scared him.
Establish a good association
The problem with intense fears and fears is that they are associated with intense feelings or with “bad” memories. That is why it is necessary to re-elaborate another association of something fun or relaxing each time the problem of fear or phobia occurs. An example that can be useful -following the previous example- for children who are afraid of storms it may be that while there is one and your child is afraid, make them see that it is something normal.
Take the feeling seriously and assess their state, and then redirect their attention and encourage them to see a fun movie with you or coloring while listening to relaxing music -even with headphones-, etc. With time and when they are ready, you can even work through a game, for example, every time there is lightning you can tell a funny joke. Anything that focuses your thinking on something fun instead of focusing on fear will be good for breaking negative associations.