Tips to dismantle children's fears

Tips to dismantle children's fears

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The key to overcoming fear is not running away from it or avoiding what is scary. To overcome fear, which psychology considers irrational, you have to come face to face with it and dismantle its structure.

The psychologist Silvia Alava, from the Álava-Reyes Consultores Center of Psychology, in this interview with, give us some tips to dismantle the fears of children and it explains the two faces of fear in children, the positive and the negative.

Is fear born or made? Can children learn to be afraid?
Children generally learn to be afraid. In fact, many times we see how the mother is afraid of something, for example of dogs: Be careful, do not come near, it is not going to bite you !, and what that child does is that it generates a fear of the dog. We have to be very careful with what phrases we say to our children, because it does not have to be a fear of the mother as such, but a feeling of insecurity or danger that I am transmitting and that the child, as he sees that his reference figure is being afraid, learns to be afraid of that situation.

Is it sometimes good to be afraid too?
We have to distinguish: fear is a physiological response to a stimulus or to a situation that is dangerous. In that situation, the rscared, when my life is in danger, it is correct, because what I am doing is that I am activating a lot at a physiological level: my heart begins to beat faster, I begin to breathe faster and hyperventilate, my muscles tense and all this prepares me to be able to run away from that situation, which is really dangerous. The problem is when I am afraid, or the child is afraid, in a situation that is not potentially dangerous, for example, in the darkness ghosts, monsters, that they are going to break into the house ... When we talk about fear, generally, we are talking about a irrational fear, of a situation that in itself does not involve any danger and then the answer is wrong.

Does fear also educate?
Children have to learn that there are certain situations in which they have to be very careful, such as when we are going to cross the street: they cross their mother's hand. On the street, we don't have to be afraid of people, but you don't have to talk to someone you don't know or accept a candy from someone you don't know. However, with children we do not have to use the word fear: 'Be afraid of this, be afraid of crossing the street', but rather 'Let's be careful', because fear does carry that negative connotation irrational fear.

Do boys cope with fear differently than girls?
There are studies that tell us that the prevalence of fears in boys and girls is different. It seems, in principle, that girls tend to have more fears, but in clinical practice or psychology we find that, in the end, both are afraid and the way of living that fear is quite similar. Fear is irrational, fear is also expansive. If we do not expose ourselves to it and overcome it, it is most likely that it will grow more and more and become more limiter. Whether we are girls or boys, we must cut it from the beginning.

What are the keys to helping children overcome their fears?
It is essential that children see their parents and figures of reference very safe, because this attitude of adults will give them security. As strategies to overcome it, we can talk with him and establish guidelines, but what is not going to be worth at all is not exposing ourselves to that fear. Avoidance is the worst answer, because if you avoid fear, the issue is put aside and strategies are never created to overcome it. Therefore, we cannot allow children to avoid the situation of fear, we have to face them little by little, giving them resources, giving them little techniques, with an adult by their side, who serves as a reference, who offers them security, but never encourages avoidance.

Marisol New.

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