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Preschool Education Article

I'm Scared!
(c) By Christa J Koch

Everyone has fears, even a child. The difference between adults and children is, an adult for the most part can express their fears. If the threat beats out safety we are generally afraid. Childhood fears, like adult fears are based on self-protection.

There are two basic categories of a child's fears. What the Child Knows to be true, and What the child doesn't know.

Child Knows:

Ex. The last time your child visited the pediatrician she had to get a shot. Outcome: The next time she visits the doctor she may be clingy and cry. She remembers the pain and the hurt.

Ex. Your child goes to grandma's house for a visit. She likes to play with grandma's cat. She walks up behind the cat to pet it. This startles the cat and it scratches her. Outcome: She may become fearful of all cats. The cat hurt her when she was just trying to pet it nicely.

These are just examples of fears your child knows. Ones she has experienced first hand.

Child Doesn't Know:

A fear of the unknown is scary to a child because it is unpredictable. Young children thrive on routine, repetition, and predictability. A fear of the unknown can also come from something that is misunderstood.

Ex. When an adult enters a dark room they can become fearful because they can imagine the danger that might live in the dark room. Whether it be an over active imagination, or from watching to many Saturday night horror movies on television. Either way it is still a reaction to the unknown/ Unpredictability of the situation. Now of course most young children do not have the same imagination as an adult, but they too are reacting to the unknown/ unpredictability.

Ex. A child my start to fear things that they have misunderstood. A big one is, young children may develop a fear of the bathtub or toilet. Usually this fear arises because she may fear that she will be rushed down with the water. Now as an adult you might think this is silly. She obviously can't be sucked down the drain. She's too big. You know this and I know this, but this might not be a concept your child understands yet.

Fear is not all bad:
Fear is a necessary part of your child's development. After all, fear provides your child with self-protection. Not all cats are friendly. A dark room can be a dangerous place. Your child showing her fear is a sign of mental development. Known fears require the use of memory. To fear the pediatrician she would have to remember the last visit. Even the fear of the bathtub drain shows she has enough intellect to imagine she might be washed down.

  Helping your child with their fears:

  Here are a few guidelines to follow when dealing with a fearful child.

1.  Reassure your child: "I know you are afraid of the thunder. It is very loud. But it can't hurt you. It is just a noise." Hold and sooth your child while using reassuring words.

2.  Take your child's fears seriously! They are real in her eyes!

3.   Look at the situation from your child's viewpoint. Suppose your child is afraid of a walking and talking toy. She doesn't realize the toy is not alive. After all, the toy is moving and talking. Children donít start to understand alive and mechanical till there late preschool years.

4.  Be patient with your child. Slowly introduce and re-introduce fearful situations. Be sure to reassure her and provide plenty of comfort and a safety zone if possible.

5.   Don't try to jolly her out of a fear by saying "you're not scared." She is scared! Saying she isnít doesnít alleviate the fear. But it can make her feel bad about herself.

6.   Don't try to force your child to do something that frightens her. If she is afraid of dogs. Forcing her to pet one will not break her fear. It could intensify it.

About the Author: Christa Koch is the proud owner/developer of the website She has been teaching preschool children for over 13 years ,and has loved every minute of it. Christa lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband Mike and daughter Haley.

(C) Copyright 1997-2019 by Preschool Education

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