Your Children Have Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

By  | 

My daughter has always slept with a night light. Maybe its a dependency that I started. I’m pretty sure that I gave her a night light in her nursery. Lately the night light has not been enough. First we added the closet light with the door shut. It shone through the cracks and added a little extra light into her room. It worked for a little while. Then, once again, my daughter was scared. She told me that her room was too dark. She cried as I shut the door. So my husband and I got her a flashlight. She could hold it in bed with her and it makes her feel more secure.

Next she was afraid of monsters, under her bed or in her closet. Then she was positive there were snakes on the floor. This is the point where I realized that my daughter was simply afraid of bedtime. See, any time before 8 o’clock, my daughter likes snakes. I’ve seen her try to pick one up. She giggles at them when we visit the zoo. She makes merciless fun of her dad for disliking snakes. I don’t think they bother her at all, but she knows that they are fear-worthy, because she seen her dad quiver in front of the python’s cage in the reptile room. My daughter was using fear as an excuse to prolong bedtime as much as possible. She knew that we would comfort and console her if she was scared, where we would ignore other requests to stay up late.

Suddenly, fear became a hot topic of debate in our house. Should we ignore it? Do we need to be discussing it more? Is it possible that she’s not scared at all and simply extremely manipulative (which makes me feel a whole new kind of fear about her teenager years)? I turned to a local child therapist and a couple academic studies to find out more about children in fear. Here’s what I found out.

  • Fear isn’t inherited, but a parent’s actions and reactions can sway a child’s mind.While there’s no reason to believe that your children will be afraid of everything their parents’ fear, adults cue children in to what’s fear-worthy. If you begin to comfort your child and whisper, “It’ll be ok, baby,” the minute it starts to thunder, children will assume that they should be afraid of storms. It’s the same as over-reacting about an injury. Often, children don’t actually get upset about a bump or a scrape until their parents want to console them.
  • Don’t dismiss their fears. Fear is a natural emotion for children at almost any age. Even if you aren’t sure how to handle it, don’t dismiss their fear with remarks like, “You’re a big kid! You can’t be scared of that!” Fear teaches children a lot of very important lessons. As a parent, you need to help them learn to cope with fear instead of making them feel like its invalid. Reassure them that they are safe.
  • Remind them of fears that they’ve overcome. Instead of focusing on a scary object, remind them of other potentially scary situations that turned out ok. Teach your children how to look for solutions to their problems and that fear doesn’t have to get in their way. The more tools you give them now, the easier it will be for them to get over fears on their own later.
  • Reinforce their bravery. With children, like my darling little one, who might be using fear to get some extra loving before bedtime, show them that bravery is even better. Tell them how proud you are when they go to bed without a fuss. Shower them with love and encouragement. Make their strength worth a lot more than their fear.

Fear is a useful and necessary emotion for children to experience, but parents still need to help them work through it. Talk to your children during the day, before night time fear has the chance to set in. Plan out your evenings and how you’ll respondahead of time. Whether its storms, spiders or snakes that do it, everyone has a right to their own fears. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Sweet dreams!