Easing Their Terrible Fears

February 12th, 2013 posted by Elizabeth Pantley

Q:

My daughter recently turned 7 years old. About 6 months ago she developed a terrible fear. She is awfully afraid of wind, even a slight breeze, clouds and rain. It is a fear that totally wipes her out. It is playing havoc on her life and mine, and I don’t know what to do. It is like a panic attack with uncontrollable shaking and crying, very much a real and intense fear. No matter how I try to explain that we live in a state that doesn’t have hurricanes or tornadoes (this is what she is afraid will happen) it doesn’t ease her mind at all. I really need some advice. Thank you very much for your time! ~ Kim Parenting expert and reknowned author, Elizabeth Pantley, answers…

A:

Fears of this nature are actually quite normal. Read through the following excerpt from my book, Perfect Parenting , and see if some of these ideas are helpful to you.

Think about it:

Children hear of a natural disaster happening and assume that the random occurrence puts them in great danger. In addition, in our attempts to keep our children safe, we sometimes, unknowingly, perpetuate the fear. Without the wisdom to understand that events like these are unlikely to happen to them, children may become overly concerned for their own, and their families, safety. Time and maturity will temper your child’s fears. In the meantime, try some of the following solutions.

Solution #1:

Children will pick up emotional cues from you about how to respond to these fears. It’s important that you stay calm. Point out any facts that reduce the likelihood of your family being involved in the disaster, “We aren’t at risk for a flood since the nearest ocean is over eighty miles away.” If you are in an area where the focus of a child’s fear is a possibility (an earthquake in California, for example), calmly enumerate the steps you and your community have taken to protect yourselves from a disaster. Explain that by being prepared you can handle an emergency.

Solution #2:

A child who is afraid of a disaster happening, such as a house fire, often needs to talk about it quite a bit before she can sort it all out in her mind and is able to let it go. Avoid superficial answers that are intended to end your child’s worry, but are not accurate, such as, “We won’t have a fire.” Instead, provide brief, specific answers to questions tempering your information to reassure your child. Some of their concerns may seem silly to you but are very serious to them, so take the time to discuss and validate their feelings. Don’t allow your child to dwell on the topic. When you feel the conversation should be ended, simply change the subject or distract your child with an activity.

Solution #3:

Have a family safety drill. Your child may not want to do this, and may express fear of the drill itself, but once you’ve completed it your child will be reassured that everyone knows what to do in an emergency.

Solution #4:

Read books that give your child information about the object of his fears. Knowledge can often conquer fear. For example, a child who is afraid of spiders will benefit from knowing that there are few spiders that pose any threat to human beings. In addition, if he learns about spiders they will become familiar, and familiarity will reduce fear.

Special note:

Children who demonstrate intense fears and cannot seem to be reassured should see a professional to help them handle these anxieties. (Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999)

Recommended Reading

: Have you ever wished that your child came with an instruction book? Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips might be just what you have been looking for! This book consists of suggestions on how to deal with all those situations that are sent to try your patience and all those issues which no-one seems to know how to handle. This book’s format is perfect for the busy parent. In alphabetical order and cross-referenced, you will find suggestions on how to cope with everything from allowances to yelling and screaming. (courtesy Amazon)

Elizabeth Pantley (57 Posts)

Elizabeth Pantley is also the president of Better Beginnings, Inc. She is a popular speaker on family issues. Elizabeth’s newsletter, Parent Tips is seen in schools nationwide. She appears as a regular radio show guest and has been quoted in Parents, Parenting, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Twins, Working Mother, and Woman’s Day magazines. You can visit her website at http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/


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