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Kids have fears. As parents, we sometimes encounter our children's fears at the most unexpected times or in the strangest of situations. A child can go from fine to freaked out in a split second, and things that never used to bother your child can suddenly cause them to shrink in fear. What can we do to help? You'll find some suggestions below for helping your child deal with fears - and please add your own ideas and techniques!

Fear of Thunderstorms:
A common fear for kids is thunderstorms. This fear often surfaces sometime in the second year and can continue all the way through the early teens. The unpredictability of the storms combined with the loud noises from thunder/wind and the ominous skies can really frighten a child.

* Close the blinds - the less the child can see the wind, rain and lightening, the better.
* Turn up the music - take the opportunity to have a family jam session! Whether it's singing, dancing or bringing out special instruments, the noise you make inside will drown out what's going on outside.
* Establish a "safe place" - designate a large closet, basement or bathroom that's free of windows and grab a few items for your thunderstorm box: a set of headphones, special puzzles/toys, etc.

Fear of dogs/cats

This fear can surface early on. Sometimes it is innate, other times it can be driven from a bad experience with an animal. Things beyond their control frighten kids, and dogs and cats fit this bill.

* Use books and DVDs to introduce your child to other kids interacting with pets in a positive setting.
* Respect your child's fear - don't push. If they are not comfortable, recognize the fear and let them hang back.
* Start at a safe distance and watch the pet. Check in with your child to gain their permission to get closer.

Fear of Unknown Relatives:
Some kids have an inborn stranger danger, and this applies to relatives they do not know well. If you are headed to a family reunion, holiday gathering or other family event and want your child to warm up a little faster, try these tips:

* Make a book of photos and label them with names of relatives. Go through the book together and talk to your child about what makes each one special.
* Skype or share videos before the visit to let your child see and hear their relatives.
* Don't force hugs or affection - if your child doesn't want to hug Great Aunt Helen (or  even a grandparent!), don't try to make them. You end up with an unhappy kid and teach them they have to comply with requests for affection even when it doesn't seem natural to them.

Fear of the Dark:
When kids can't make out all the details around them, their imaginations take over. They can see monsters, hear noises and conjure up all sorts of scary ideas. Help them conquer the fear:

* Use a night light - there are lots of cute ones in the market that match any theme and for any age.
* Check closets and under the bed together before going to sleep - "Nothing there."
* Read books where characters fear the dark and overcome their fear.
* Keep a flashlight within their reach - if they get scared, they can turn it on.
* Don't use "monster spray" to get rid of the monsters... That can reinforce that monsters could indeed be there!

Fear of the Water/Swimming:
Pools, lakes and oceans have a lot of water in them and appear overwhelming to some children. They feel out of control and their fear takes over. Here's how you can help encourage them:

* Take it slow - let the child advance at their own pace
* Baby steps help - dangle feet in the pool, stand in the shallow end, sit on the float on top of the water.
* Private swim lessons work best for kids that have a real fear if swimming.
* Don't force them - let them decide when it's time to move forward.

Just remember - although you may think a fear is irrational, it's very real for our child. Recognize it, and respect their feelings. Pretty soon, and in their own time, they will conquer their fears. Just be there for them along the way with plenty of hugs and words of encouragement!

Tags: Fear, dark, swimming, thunderstorms

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Then there are kids like my almost 4-year-old son who is fine with all of the above but runs screaming out of the room if a beeping weather alert sounds on the television. Or does the same thing if he sees his toddler brother get hold of the remote because the last time he did, he changed the channel and it was loud and staticy. After trying to reassure him the first few times this has happened, the TV goes off (for the rest of the day even if he asks for a show later), I wait for him to come out of hiding, and we find a fun activity. The worst has been recently with all these storms. I want the TV on to make sure we don't need to hide in a closet or something! I settle with putting it on mute but he sees that red bar across the bottom of the screen and STILL gets upset even if he is absorbed with legos. We just tell him what it is and hope this is just a phase!
Funny story some might find unorthadox but to the true southern ladies, this is hilarious. Recently my daughter was outside with her dad workin on the car and saw her first squirrel up close. She came runnin and screamin that there was a monkey! A gorilla in a movie we had watched a while back had scared her a little but really she's never feared any kind of animal or creepy crawlie. But by the sound of her cries for Mama, I knew she was truly freaked out by her monkey sighting. After that, she sat on the back of the couch lookin out the window for another "monkey" and that's all we heard around here for about a week. Finally we knew we had to do something to cure her of this monkey phobia when words were just not enough to calm her. So my husband takes his .22 and goes outside to hunt down a squirrel. When he has taken one down, we took her outside showed her the "monkey" and convinced her it was really dead now. Daddy had got that monkey! I know it sounds horrible to show a 2 year old a dead squirrel but from where I'm from, it was nothin unusual for my Grandpa to show them to me as a child. So needless to say, whether it was the most civilized way of curing the fear or not, my daughter no longer hides on the couch lookin for the monkey coming to get her.
My son has a fear I worry about and that is trying anything new.  This week his day camp is going to vacation Bible school and I signed him up this year to go.  He's been dreading it ever since I told him to the point of tears!  This morning he left crying and saying he was going to ask not to go.  I finally told him that if he didn't go there would be consequences, meaning he would lose priviledges with the Wii or something like that.  I don't want to feel like I have to punish him or threaten to punish him just to get him to try something new, but I can't stress enough how worried/scared he was this morning.  Literally, he was sobbing.  :(

Oh Jan, I feel for you. Not had this problem from my small kids yet but my younger brother had the same problem growing up. We couldn't even get him to go stay with our grandparents. But it seems like once we finally talked him into it or threatened him with loss of priviledge or bribed him to get out the door and gone, he always had a good time. I'm sure your son will forget all about how bad he was feeling when he left and have a great time once he gets there and gets to having some fun with the other kids. Good luck and hope he does great! He's really cute by the way!


Thanks,  Amber!  When I picked him up from day camp, he did say he had fun at Bible school.  It sure is tough though when he seems so scared before he even gives it a try.  Really hoping he'll grow out of it! :)

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