With the majority of school holidays starting mid-July and fast approaching, it’s important to consider…
Phobias in children are fairly common; you may be surprised to learn that young children have more fears and phobias than adults do and that they experience the emotion of fear much more intensely. Most of us have some sort of irrational fear or another and the correct definition of a phobia is “an intense and irrational fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no danger”. Small children will show many fears as they grow up and learn about the world around them and this is only natural – they may fear things that they don’t understand. As children grow older and learn to make sense of the world and everything in it, these fears usually fizzle out and disappear. However, some children may hang on to one or more of their fears until it becomes a phobia, and this is the time for parents and caregivers to step in and try to help them conquer the fears.
0 – 2 years: Loud noises, strangers, separation from parents or caregivers, large objects.
3 – 6 years: Imaginary things such as monsters, ghosts, the dark, strange noises, sleeping alone.
7 – 16 years: More realistic fears such as illness, injury, death, natural disasters and performance at school.
Animal phobia – including fear of snakes, spiders, dogs, rodents, birds and insects among other animals.
Natural environment phobias – such as fear of heights, storms, the dark or water.
Situational phobias – which includes things that are triggered by a certain situation such as fear of enclosed spaces, flying, driving, tunnels and bridges.
Blood-Injection injury phobias – including injury, blood, the dentist, needles or other medical procedures.
A phobia can make life difficult for both the child and the parents, so overcoming the phobia as best as possible is essential. This will often involve engaging professional help. However, first of all you need to be sure that this really is a phobia and not just a fear that your child can grow out of with some help from you.
For normal and age appropriate fears and anxieties, there are plenty of measures parents can take to help their child develop the skills and confidence they need to overcome the fear before it develops into a full-blown phobia. First, recognize that the fear is real, however trivial it may seem to you. Encourage your child to talk about the fear as putting it into words will often take away some of the power of the negative feelings.
If the fears do persist despite all your efforts to help, then it would be a good idea to talk to your GP about referring your child to a therapist who will help him conquer the fear before it becomes a proper phobia that will affect his enjoyment of life in the future