It is perfectly normal for all children to have certain fears at some point during their childhood. As a child learns more about the world, some things may become scary to them. In this article, we will discuss childhood fears and ways to overcome them.
When is fear a problem?
Fear is a normal part of growing up. It is a sign that a child is beginning to understand the world. With time and experience, they will realize that things that seem frightening are not actually so scary. It is important to remember that fears at a certain age are perfectly appropriate and are in no way a sign of abnormality.
Causes of childhood fears according to age
Psychologists and therapists around the world identify the 6 main fears that can hinder a child’s development:
- Fear of loss of life;
- Fear of loss of status;
- Fear of uncertainty about the future;
- Fear of helplessness;
- Fear of loss of community;
- Fear of injustice.
However, given the particularities of childhood psychology, these fears can vary, meaning they may arise earlier or later. Below are examples of the most common childhood fears by age.
Infants and Toddlers
The nervous system of newborns is still very vulnerable. Therefore, at this age, the causes of children’s fears can be loud noises or sudden movements. For example, thunder, the sound of a vacuum cleaner, blender, hair dryer, burst balloons, sirens, water draining in the bathtub, quick putting to bed, and many other frightening factors.
Also, babies are very afraid of strangers. By 6-8 months, children form a close bond with those who care for them. They distinguish their parents from others not only by external features or voice but also by the factor of psychological attachment. For many infants, strangers are considered anyone other than their parents. Strangers should move around the baby very carefully. Toddlers are very sensitive to their personal space and will easily be frightened by anyone who enters the room quickly and unexpectedly.
Preschoolers have boundless imagination. At this age, it is difficult for them to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Therefore, scary sounds, Halloween costumes, ghosts, witches, monsters, and other mystical things can become the basis of fears in preschoolers. Moreover, the content that children see on the TV screen, computer, or read in books can fuel their already vivid imagination and turn into nightmares. This can cause night terrors in children, especially a fear of the dark.
By the age of 5-6, children may show a strong reaction to separation from their parents. Toddlers begin to realize that there are many dangers in the world. Therefore, the desire to avoid school or sleepovers, for example, at grandparents’ houses, is a perfectly understandable argument for young children.
As children grow up, the psychology of their fears takes on different shades. A vivid example of this is the fear of being misunderstood or even rejected by peers. This is because schoolchildren begin to rely on public opinion.
Another significant fear of children at this age is the loss of a loved one or a pet. This is because children begin to understand that death at some point affects everyone and that it is irreversible.
The problem of childhood fears described above may still persist in adolescence. As children grow up, almost every child begins to experience fears related to school and taking exams. Thoughts about the future are accompanied by anxiety, as children want to succeed in their plans and make their dreams a reality.
Also, the fear of modern teenagers can be the information from the media, which children can sometimes perceive about themselves. The more time they spend on social media, the more often they will hear about bad news and come to the conclusion that the risk of it happening to them is higher than it really is.
Is fear always normal?
Here are signs that fear may be something more:
- Intrusive worry. It is the basis of neurotic fears in children. This is expressed in the fact that the child becomes fixated on the object of their fear, often thinking or talking about it even when the object of their fear is not nearby. For example, a child may become extremely anxious for several months before their next visit to the dentist.
- Fears that limit a child’s ability to enjoy life or participate in activities. A good example is a series of social fears in teenagers: refusing to go on a field trip to the park because there are too many unfamiliar people there, or refusing to go outside due to fear of being judged by strangers and many others.
Psychologists offer the following useful tips for parents to combat children’s phobias: deep breathing techniques, using stress relief toys, and redirecting attention to hobbies. If the anxiety persists even in the face of these distracting factors, it is time to seek help from a specialist.
When to seek help?
If a child’s panic fear:
- Does not go away for a long time;
- Causes hysterical fits;
- Causes physical discomfort, such as headaches, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea
All of these may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder that needs to be corrected by a specialist. This could be a psychologist or psychiatrist who has experience working with children and adolescents with anxiety problems. It is important to find a professional who uses a cognitive-behavioral approach to treatment. Depending on the etiology of a child’s fears, which are of a particular nature, therapy may last for several months, a year, or more.
In this article, we have told you about daytime and nighttime fears in children, the approximate age of their onset, and the line between normalcy and pathology. Listen to your child, as sometimes people can carry fear throughout their entire lives, and the solution to the problem is much simpler than it seems!
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