Do you need some tips on how to make your kid less scared?
I put these tips together after a recent episode where my 4-year-old Boy tested my parenting skills.
Why I decided to write a guide for making your child less scared and anxious
He was at the top of the slide, a slide he had enjoyed 3 times in the last 5 minutes. Then it kicked in, and he froze. There was no immediate reason why he froze or why he began crying. But he did. And boy, did we know about it!
I took my shoes off and joined him at the top.
With my arm around him, I asked what was wrong.
I’m scared of that picture,’ he said as he pointed towards the direction of the funhouse. It was a picture of Arial from The Little Mermaid. What the hell goes through the minds of these kids?
It got me thinking, though, was I doing something to initiate this fear? Was I too protective? I can’t remember leaping out dressed as Arial, I try to keep that kind of stuff for the bedroom.
Anyway, I digress. Here are some tips for making your child less scared of life.
10 Anxiety reducing tips for making your child less scared
1. Watch what they watch
Not literally. You don’t have to watch movies and YouTube videos before handing them to your child.
I mean that you should be aware of what they watch.
If your kid loves YouTube, and who doesn’t, then stick YouTube Kids on the tablet and remove the normal YouTube app. It stops them from watching things they shouldn’t.
When it comes to films, it’s too easy to let them watch The Avengers because he loves Hulk, but there is a reason it has an age restriction.
The key thing here is that there may be things in the film that scare them now or soon.
2. Listen to their fears
I know they are only small, but if they are scared, listen to their fears and act like it is a genuine fear because it is.
Explain, using logic, why they should not be scared of whatever pointless thing they are scared of and move on.
Listening to your child is one of the best things we can do as parents, but it is often overlooked. Too often, I see a parent blindly agreeing with their child while they immerse themselves in their mobile phone. It is often a surprise when the kid stops listening to them because they practice exactly what they have been taught!
3. Do not laugh at their fears
Laughing at their fear belittles them; it does nothing more than that.
It is easy to laugh, especially when they tell you they are scared of a mermaid (see above), but keep it in. Laugh later.
Laughing does not remove the fear; it only adds fear that you will laugh at them. It may even stop them from opening up to you because they fear being laughed at.
4. Go easy on telling them to be careful
This is a difficult one for me to deal with. I don’t want him falling over, and I don’t want him hurting himself. But, at the same time, I do not want him to be always careful.
Telling your child to be careful too much might make them timid and afraid to try new things.
Save it for the times when they could really hurt themselves, not when they are running on the grass, and you don’t want their clothes getting dirty!
5. Don’t fuss over them
If your child falls over, do not immediately react like their life is on the line. Take stock of the situation. Is it just a cut knee or elbow? Give them some reassurance and tell them it’s cool, let’s get on with life.
I hate seeing my son in pain, but if he has just fallen over, he will get over it. Distraction works most of the time. When it doesn’t, there is always some dressing.
If your child has a severe injury, you need to deal with that differently.
Always keep your cool though, panic gets in the way of making good decisions.
6. Think about the music you listen to
I have varied musical tastes. Some songs are child-friendly, but some have lyrics that kids shouldn’t listen to.
I’m not talking about the language used, either. I am talking about the song’s content and the story being told.
I worked this out quickly when I listened to Tarantula by Pendulum. It talks about the Tarantula ‘stinging’; shortly after that, he was scared of spiders.
My explanation that spiders do not sting, they bite, really didn’t help.
Also – I like a bit of Marylin Manson, and I soon realized that ‘Sweet Dreams’ was too scary for him.
7. Kid stories can also be pretty scary
Hansel and Gretel, the witch, wants to eat the kids.
In the Three Little Pigs, the Wolf wants to eat the pigs.
Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf eats everyone but is cut open at the end (spoiler alert, sorry).
Don’t get me started on the Gingerbread Man! A little old lady wants to eat him. Don’t be surprised if they have a healthy fear of older people!
Not very child-friendly, eh?
8. Give your child some breathing techniques
I know they are only small and barely out of the womb, but you can still give your child some techniques to help them overcome anxiety or fears.
Breathing is one of the biggest tools to battle anxiety or fears.
Toddlers listen, especially when you are helping them. Honest, they do.
Teach your toddler to take deep breaths to help relax them in situations. Concentrating on this breathing technique will also take their mind off of any fear they may have.
9. Be a superhero
This is one of my favorite tips because it kick-starts the imagination and immediately distracts them from building up the fear in their mind.
If they see a spider in the house and it scares them, snap them out of it by reversing the fear.
‘You are Spiderman, and I am Iron Man (I am always Iron Man, period), and we have to keep this spider safe and transport it outside. It needs some help, and we need to protect it.’
It is pretty amazing to see the immediate change in perception. Suddenly, my son is protecting this insect that he was scared of just 10 seconds ago.
Try it out!
10. Do not force them into facing their fears
I once witnessed a parent attempting to remove the child’s fear of worms by carrying a child over to a worm and forcing them to be there to see that a worm is nothing to be feared.
The kid was constantly screaming; he had a genuine fear.
That parent forgot or didn’t realize that it WAS a genuine fear. We know, as adults, that a worm is nothing you need to be scared about. As a kid, it is different.
Forcing your child to face their fears when they are not in the right frame of mind is not good practice and will only increase their fear levels. They will also begin to think that they do not have your protection.
A better way to approach this kind of fear is to remove them from the object, making them scared, talk to them about it and then ask if they are ready to face the fear.
There is a good technique in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) where you imagine the object doing silly things.
Get your child to close their eyes and imagine a worm. Then get them to imagine it with a huge smile on its face. Maybe add some silly music. This is about what your child is interested in, and add that to the mix. Do they like pirates? Imagine a worm with a pirate’s hat on or a pirate’s sword fighting the bad guys.
The key thing is that you listen to the fear and ask them if they want to face it.
I am certain that these tips will help if your child is suddenly more scared than they have been in the past.
Let’s not forget this world is new to them, and even though they are not aware of the things they SHOULD be scared of, they are still scared.
It is essential to listen to them, and I can’t emphasize that enough. Listen and respond, do not mock them.
Being extra scared of things is likely to be a phase they are going through as they progress through life.
If you follow the tips on this page, I am sure they will be less scared of things in life, and they can begin to enjoy different things again.
I hope these tips will help you and your child. If you have any more tips or stories to share, please leave a comment below or get in touch. I would love to hear them!