All children have fears. Some are real, while others are entirely a result of their imagination. Most of these fears are temporary. Your child will soon outgrow them. Different types of fears affect children at different ages. Although they are normal, in case they interfere with your child’s daily activities, you need to seek help.
With the right guidance and strategy, you can manage and care for your child’s phobias. Avoidance is not the way to treat a child’s phobia. Instead, encourage them to face their fears head-on. Soon they will realize whatever is worrying them will never happen.
Below is a list of different fears that may affect your child, and how you can help your child overcome these common childhood fears:
1. Fear of the Dark
Darkness is one of the more common childhood fears. Some children cannot sleep with the lights off. This is especially common among children aged two to six years. In most cases, the child will outgrow this fear, but there are some instances where the phobia persists into adulthood. Extreme fear of the dark is sometimes referred to as scotophobia or lygophobia.
While the fear of the dark does not necessarily have to do with the darkness itself, it may involve the fear of imagined dangers associated with darkness. For example, a child may be afraid of monsters or ghosts, which, according to their imagination, lurk in the dark.
2. Fear of Clowns
While clowns can bring joy and excitement, they may also be the cause of common childhood fears for some children. Fear of clowns is also referred to as coulrophobia. It is experienced at the sight or thought of a clown. Masks and disguises have been known to scare children easily, and some adults as well. Some movies and novels have portrayed the clown as a villain.
If a child gets to watch such a movie, they may henceforth develop a fear of clowns since they are depicted as the ‘bad guys.’ The clowns’ exaggerated physical features do not help the situation. For instance, children are not used to seeing a fixed grin or the extreme contrast of colours on the faces of their caregivers. Hence, these unfamiliar faces often frighten them.
3. Separation Anxiety Disorder
This is a common fear witnessed among infants between 8 and 14 months old. It is evidenced by the baby getting all too clingy and often gets scared when in the company of unfamiliar people and places. Usually, your baby will outgrow this fear. However, if by the time they are 6 years old they still experience this fear, it is possible they have a separation anxiety disorder.
This disorder makes it difficult for them to go about their normal activities such as going to school or playing with other children. This is because they are always nervous and fearful whenever they are separated from their caregivers.
4. Social Anxiety Disorder
This kind of fear is witnessed among children and teenagers. It makes it difficult for a child to participate in social activities such as school parties, athletic events, or even school plays. The child always feels like they are on stage and are worried they may do something really embarrassing, or that the rest of the children will judge them.
This kind of childhood fear could be endemic in a particular family where more than one family member is affected. About seven percent of children in a school have a social anxiety disorder. It affects the confidence of a child, making it difficult for them to make and maintain friends.
5. Animal or Insect Phobia
This kind of fear is a normal part of the development of a child. However, if it hinders the child from indulging in activities they love, it is a problem. A child with such a phobia may avoid a playdate since the other child has a pet dog, or won’t go swimming because there are bees in the area.
This might be very frustrating for a parent since the child is not living their full potential. It is vital for a parent to teach a child how animals communicate. For example, if a dog wags its tail, it wants to play; and when the tail is down, this means the dog is angry. Teaching your child animal language will help them, and in fact they will enjoy, being in the company of animals such as dogs.
This is an anxiety disorder that comes from feelings of insecurity. Agoraphobia is derived from two Greek words, which translate into ‘fear’ and ‘marketplace.’ You find that a child with agoraphobia often does not want to leave the house, neither do they like to use public means of transportation. It may also interfere with schooling, and in some instances, a parent may be forced to home-school a child with this type of fear.
7. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This kind of fear was initially known as ‘overanxious disorder’ and is somewhat similar to the uncontrolled worry some adults have. A child with a generalized anxiety disorder is self-conscious, self-doubting, and is constantly looking for approval from an adult. They always worry about school grades, hurting themselves while playing, storms, etc. They also have recurrent head and stomach aches.