It has been observed that parents who are too over protective or children for whom toilet
training or feeding is an issue, are more prone to have fears. Probably all children have
certain fears at some point of time, though they overcome them before these fears are even
observed by their parents. Most of these early fears start fading spontaneously, as your
child gradually understands that noises imply no real danger. It is very necessary for a
parent to understand and help his child deal with his fears. The following suggestions
must be kept in mind :
Never force your child :
Everything has it's time, give your child time. Your child's phobia may seem irrational to
you, but very legitimate to him. He needs to wait and confront it on his own terms and in
his own time when he feels safe.
Never ridicule your child :
Everybody goes through this phase, you too as a child must have had your share of phobias.
Be compassionate. Making fun of your child, calling him silly or laughing at him will
deter his self-confidence and his ability to deal with his fears. Take his fears
Sympathize with your child :
By accepting your child's fears as real and comforting him, you will reduce his burden and
help him cope with his fears. If he cries when you flush the toilet or when you switch off
the room light, be quick to pick him up and give him a big reassuring hug.
Reassure and build your
child's confidence : As a parent you must sympathize with his fears, but your ultimate
goal is to help him overcome them.
Fear of the dark : The lack
of the ability to see clearly acts as a span to the imagination, leading most people to
imagine that somebody is creeping up on them. If your child is scared of the dark, keep a
night lamp on.
Tangible fears : Sometimes
children develop fear of tangible things like dogs, cockroaches, water, etc.
Stranger anxiety :
Unfamiliar faces may make your child feel insecure and he may start crying. The sudden
presence of a stranger may be the cause of his anxiety. You can minimize this fear by
making him sit on your lap, facing outward and talking to the person in an upbeat and
Fears of being separated
from the mother : With growing perception also comes hordes of fear, being separated from
a mother leads to anxiety. Each child differs in intensity and frequency of fear stemming
from separation. The intensity and quality of their attachment to their mother affects
their level of fear.
Akash, a five year old boy was brought to the child guidance clinic by
his mother. She stated that her child walked in his sleep on an average of once or twice a
week. She also complained of his restlessness in bed and waking up very late in the
mornings. Akash's sleepwalking episodes were associated with nightmares, perspiring and
talking in his sleep.
Past history revealed that his milestones were delayed and he had a poor appetite. He was
afraid to go into a dark room, feared horror movies and was scared of cockroaches. He
salivated while sleeping.
On questioning Akash, it was revealed that when he went to bed, many a times he woke up
frightened and complained of having seen a frightful dream of being chased by a "big
black dog". In his dream, Akash thought that the dog would bite him and he would be
without legs, if it caught him. After this dream, Akash would perspire, moan and talk in
his sleep. He would toss and turn and finally get up and walk through the house.
Assessment data revealed neurological or medical problems and indicated that Akash was of
normal intelligence. However he was found to be a very anxious, guilt ridden little boy,
who avoided performing assertive and aggressive behaviours appropriate of his age and sex.
The therapist focused treatment on having Akash's mother awaken the boy each time he
showed signs of an impending frightful dream. Washing his face with cold water and making
sure he was fully awake, the mother would return him to bed where he was to hit and tear
up a picture of the "big black dog". Akash was to make several of these
drawings, as part of his hobby, in the art class.
Rational emotive therapy was taught to Akash, where he was shown his irrationality in his
thinking patterns. No dog could bite him to that extent where he would have to lose his
legs. It was only a dream. The mother was asked to leave the light on for a few days and
every time Akash entered a dark room, he was rewarded and reassured with positive
Slowly, it was explained to him that if he still felt afraid, he would have to switch on
and off the light himself. Because the situation is under the child's control, there will
be no call for panic reactions. As a consequence, Akash felt comfort in sleeping
continuously, rather than getting up to switch off the light and switch it on again. Here
the therapist tried to create a contest of will, where you have defeated your original
purpose of enlisting the child's own energies on the socialization process. Another way of
achieving the same objective would be to use a lamp that can be placed on the floor and
moved progressively by discernible steps out of the room, a little further each night.
In the following sessions it was noticed that Akash became more confident and less
dependent. He was made aware of the fact that to get rid of his fear he would have to face
that fear and come to terms with his irrationality, in his thinking pattern. He was also
taught to do deep breathing exercises for relaxation. He was made to recline on a couch
and intentionally contract and relax various muscles of the body in a systematic fashion.
In this way, the subject gets the feeling of each state and gradually acquires voluntary
control over his muscles, so that he can relax the entire body at will. When the body is
completely relaxed, tension disappears and the subject finds it easier to go to sleep.