Dealing with Childhood Fears

Fear and anxiety are instinctive conditions that help protect us from danger, and children experience them just as much as adults do, if not more. Some preschoolers might be afraid of very specific things like the dark, bugs, or certain animals, while others are afraid of particular situations. 

One major difference between adults and young children, however, is that preschoolers tend to have an overactive imagination which can leave them worrying about a greater variety of things, such as imaginary monsters, death, pain, and much more. It is normal for preschoolers' fear to fade as they become older, wiser and more secure in their environment, but until then there are a few things that you can do to help ease your child's anxiety and empower it against its fears.
 

Acknowledge your child's fears.

While certain fears might seem juvenile and unfounded, each and every single one of them is very serious to your child. Don't laugh your preschooler's anxiety off or belittle it; instead, comfort your little one by letting them know that you understand their feelings, that it's alright to be scared sometimes, and that you'll help them take care of their fears. Attempting to downplay fears and telling your preschooler that there's no reason to be scared will rarely, if ever, work. 

Sometimes certain fears will stem from anxiety about new situations, such as starting preschool. In this case talk to your child about what is making it anxious and try to outline the positives of the situation. With time, your preschooler will see that there is nothing to worry about and will become accustomed to the new circumstances.
 

Use comforting toys and objects.

Some preschoolers will need the emotional support of a beloved stuffed toy or a safety blanket that they've been attached to from an earlier age to feel comfortable enough to deal with certain anxieties. If your child has such an object, don't make it feel babyish for continuing to be attached to it. Your preschooler will most likely stop being so attached to it by the time it is 4 years old, but until then allow it to take its toy or preferred item around with it when going to the doctor, visiting the preschool for the first time, when you tuck it in to bed at night, or any other situation that causes it anxiety.
 


Explain

Expose and explore. Giving your preschooler a simple and rational explanation about why it needn't be afraid of certain things or offering a logical solution can sometimes help allay its fears, but this will not always work. Never lie or sugarcoat things when explaining things to your child, but don't dwell on the negative either. 

If, for example, your child is afraid of taking a vaccination, comfort it by telling it that while the shot might hurt a little bit at first, it will be over quickly, and offer to do something fun afterwards. Always remain by your child's side when it needs to go through painful procedures to show your support and let your preschooler know that you haven't abandoned it. 

You can also help it get over its fear of "scary" things by exposing it to them from afar or through books and videos. For instance, if your preschooler is afraid of animals, take it to a petting zoo or let it watch a video or read a story about a child that befriends different types of animals.
 


Solve problems together.

Come up with creative solutions to your child's fears. If your child is afraid of the dark, use a nightlight. If it's afraid of imaginary monsters, designate one of its toys as a guardian that can keep these monsters away. By trying different solutions you and your child will learn what works and what doesn't, and eventually will be able to increase its confidence and sense of control over things. The most important thing is that you remain patient, understanding and comforting.
 

Assess whether your child needs professional help.

If you feel that your preschooler's fears are interfering with its daily life and performance for an extended period of time, talk to your pediatrician. Your preschooler might have developed a phobia and might need proper treatment to stop it from becoming a crippling condition that can affect its life later on in adulthood.