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How to help a child who gets scared
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In this edition of LIFEadvice Coach Kim teaches ways to help a child work through their fears, especially during halloween. - photo by Kim Giles
Question:

I have a daughter who gets frightened too easily and has terrible fears every night. Halloween is making the situation even worse. Do you have any advice on helping a child be less scared or how to help her when she is?

Answer:

Halloween is a great time to talk to children about scary things and dealing with fear. Here are a couple suggestions on how to do that:

  1. Never make fun or dismiss your child's fears as stupid. Making comments like, Dont be such a baby, or laughing at children for being afraid can cause long-term damage to their self-esteem. Make sure your child knows that everyone experiences fear at times, and its a perfectly normal experience. Make sure your child feels safe coming to you to discuss her fears or any other emotion she is feeling. Make sure you validate her right to those feelings and teach her being scared doesnt affect her value or what you think of her.

  2. Listen more than you talk. Parents must learn to be great question askers and great listeners. When possible, ask questions that will guide your child to figure out the truth about her fears on her own. This creates confidence and builds self-esteem while also making your child feel important.

  3. Offer a night light without making a big deal about it. Its totally fine to sleep with a light on. Lots of people do it, and its not a reflection on her value as a person.

  4. Help your child recognize the difference between fears that help us and fears that hurt us. Fears that help us motivate us to be smart and take action. Fears that hurt us paralyze us and prompt inaction. Being afraid of (and staying away from) strangers is a helpful fear because it prompts you to be careful. Being afraid to talk to anyone or meet new people is a hurtful fear. It prompts inaction and prevents you from making friends. Any fear that holds you back from life or from being you is a fear you want to overcome. Help your child to see the difference and empower her to take action about hurtful fears. Teach children to recognize a fear that does no good and is a waste of energy because you cant do anything about it.

  5. Lay a solid foundation of trust by teaching your child that his world is a safe place. It is in childhood that many of our subconscious beliefs are developed. It is crucial that you teach children to see their world and the universe as a safe place right now. If they see life as a dangerous place, a fear of loss will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Help your children to see life as a classroom, a place to learn and grow, instead of a testing center, a place where their value and safety is on the line. Help them understand that although bad things can happen, only the things that will provide important lessons will and these lessons will help us grow. Help your child understand that life is not trying to beat her or hurt her; it is only facilitating experiences to help her become better and stronger. Life is on her side and always trying to serve her education. This mindset will lay a solid foundation of strength and help your child handle life with confidence.

    (You may need to change your own beliefs about life first. Remember, children learn more from how you live than what you say. You must learn to see life and the universe as a safe place (a divinely created classroom) and overcome your own fears before you can teach these principles to your child. You can't fake trust. If life feels threatening and unsafe to you, you may want to seek some professional help you change your mindset.)

  1. Teach your child how to see situations accurately (because fear can skew the truth). Teach your child how to recognize whats real and whats not. Halloween is a great time to work on this one. Help him to see that most of the time the things we fear aren't real, dont happen, or arent as bad as we thought they were. Fear is mostly illusion and make-believe. Fear exaggerates things and makes them seem worse than they really are. It is also about something that might happen, which also might not happen. Teach your child how to step back from a fear and get to the truth about it and the odds of it happening. Will worry and fear do any good? You can even role play some scary situations and help your child identify what's real.

  1. Teach your child relaxation and self-calming skills. We all need to learn ways to calm ourselves down when we are stressed or scared. If we learn how to do this as a child, it will serve us our whole life. Teach your child how to use slow breathing, visualization or prayer to let go of fear. Teach her to sit with feelings and process them in a healthy way. There is a Processing Emotions e-book on my website that might help you.

  1. If your child's fear is still keeping her from enjoying life, seek out some professional help.

Hope this helps make Halloween more fun!

You can do this.
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