Monday, February 27, 2012

Dealing with phobias in children

I wrote this post in May of 2010 but for some reason it never made it to the published folder. My daughter has started to grow out of her phobias, well some of them, not all but I still wanted to share this advice and hopefully get others opinions and/or advice on this subject. 

The other week the kids and I were driving to pick my husband up from work when the older two started freaking out. There was a fly in the car. Now my oldest has always been a little panicky over little things so I was used to his reaction. What I wasn't prepared for was my daughters. She was in full breakdown mode. Shaking, lots of tears and you could tell just by looking at her she was terrified. We had a similar experience a few days ago while she and I were running some errands. This time the bug was no bigger then the tip of a pencil. When I parked she climbed into my arms and told me she didn't want the bug to kill her. This just broke my heart hearing her say this.
So I started researching phobias in children. The definition of phobia is a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to compelling desire to avoid it (from Anxiety and phobias are completely natural in children. It helps them grow. When your child goes through separation anxiety, it is a phobia of being away from you. According to some of the most common fears are as follows:
  • Babies experience stranger anxiety, clinging to parents when confronted by people they don't recognize.
  • Toddlers around 10-18 months old experience separation anxiety, becoming emotionally distressed when one or both parents leave.
  • Kids ages 4 through 6 have anxiety about things that aren't based in reality, such as fears of monsters and ghosts.
  • Kids ages 7 through 12 often have fears that reflect circumstances that may happen to them, such as bodily injury and natural disaster.
Every child experiences these phobias/fears differently. My son used to be afraid of the dark and sleeping. This was caused from how many times we moved in a short period of time. Adjusting his sleeping situation really caused havoc on him feeling safe in his own home. There were many nights spent sitting on the floor next to his bed holding his hand or stroking his cheek until he fell asleep. Here are some signs/symptoms of having a phobia (Taken from
  • becoming clingy, impulsive, or distracted
  • nervous movements, such as temporary twitches
  • problems getting to sleep and/or staying asleep longer then usual
  • sweaty hands
  • accelerated heart rate and breathing
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • stomachaches
While my daughter is facing her fears (she notices a bug) I hold her and tell her the bug will not hurt her and that I am here for her. I do this over and over until she calms down. We saw a snake a few months back and it brought on nightmares for a week. Soin addition to her normal bedtime routine we also held her hand as she closed her eyes since that was usually when she would have the hardest time. We also explained all about snakes while she was awake and answered all of her questions. I've found that children have an easier time dealing with their fears if they know all about what it is they fear. A lot of fears are simply because it's unknown to them. So educating them is a great way to help them.

Now, how do you handle this with your children? Are there certain tricks that have worked with your little one?