Are Your Child’s Fears “Normal”?

When is your child’s fear a normal, rational fear, and when does it cross over to something more concerning?

This week: When is your child’s fear a normal, rational fear, and when does it cross over to something more concerning? Also, I’m seeing a lot of heat stroke, and what to do about it. How to save money (about $30-$100 bucks) by choosing a cheaper appointment time, and a safety recall on a weird little speaker that sold like hot cakes.

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Are Your Child’s Fears “Normal”?

How common are fears?

Fears are a common part of childhood. Nearly half of kids have fears about something or another. Fears come and go. They are a normal part of childhood and development.

Common fears by age group:

This isn’t an exhaustive list (or it would be pages long), but I included common fears by age group. Also note that there are some overlaps in age groups.

  • Infants: Loud noises, being dropped, and separation.

  • Toddlers/Preschoolers: Monsters and darkness, loud noises (e.g., fireworks, vacuum, thunder), separation from parents, water (bath or pools), bathroom related problems (e.g., falling into the toilet, being flushed away, hurting to poop).

  • School-aged: Performance (especially school performance), proficiency, peer rejection, illness/dying (especially throwing up at school), bugs and animals, “bad guys.”

  • Teens: Social competence, evaluation (school presentations, appearance to others, etc.), psychological well-being, violence and global issues, romantic rejection.

What should I do to help my child’s fears?

The good news is that fears in general tend to be relatively short-lived and benign. They aren’t a sign of psychological distress and don’t require medications or intensive therapy. Generally, you’d only need the help of a professional if you were dealing with a debilitating phobia. As a parent, here are a few tips:

  1. Acknowledge the fear as real to your child. The object of the fear may not be real (e.g., a monster under the bed), but the fear is real to the child. Don’t brush it off (e.g., “don’t be such a baby, there are no such things as monsters.”). However, don’t cater to it (e.g., “you can just sleep in my bed tonight because of the monsters.”).

  2. Talk to your child about the fears. See if there is root cause that can be addressed (e.g., the child saw something on the news or a movie, someone they know is sick or dying).

  3. Never make fun of the fears, especially in front of others.

  4. Reassure and be supportive. Kids like to know that they aren’t the only one experiencing something.

  5. Don’t push your child to be brave. Kids will overcome or face a fear when ready (or it will go away). Either way, let it be on your child’s timeframe.

When is a fear too much?

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