Fear is a basic human emotion; it was fear that helped our distant prehistoric ancestors to survive by avoiding many dangers. As the brain and nervous system develop, the child experiences fears for different reasons, and there are very definite patterns.
The very first fears that a baby is barely born are already equipped with some basic emotions, or even reflexes. The baby may startle at a sudden loud sound, a bright light suddenly appearing, or an adult abruptly approaching. These reflex reactions are the germ of future fears.
The beginnings of real fear appear after 6-7 months of age, when the baby is not yet consciously afraid of being left without protection and emotional support when he/she does not see his/her mother. Babies of this age react sensitively to their mother’s emotions as well; her fright or anxiety causes the same feelings in the baby. Nevertheless, just after this age little by little leave the baby with anybody but his mother, so he gets used to the fact that his mother may disappear from view for a while, but then she will come back.
During this period, fear of strangers may appear and it is not uncommon for children to develop certain preferences – some like men and women cause fear, while the opposite is true for others. It is not uncommon for babies to fear women who do not look like their mother – if the mother is a brunette, a blonde may frighten the baby.
Fears in the first year of life are indeed basic or biological, their purpose is to keep the child alive and healthy, which means that they are a normal manifestation of a fully developing psyche. These emotions are not conscious but manageable.
Fears from one to three years of age
Around the age of one and a half, the fear of strangers gradually subsides, but much depends on the child’s innate emotional status and even more on the parents’ behaviour. Such fears last longer in babies who rarely encounter strangers and who don’t see their parents’ reactions to other people.By 18 months of age, fear of meeting a stranger may be replaced by embarrassment.
By two years of age, the child already has some life experience and fears become more conscious. For example, knowing that a trip to the clinic will end in an injection, a fear of health workers may develop. An unfortunate encounter with the dentist is a real fear of the dentist’s office.
The fear of loud noises often peaks with two year olds as well, but with the right kind of parenting, not only does it decrease by the age of three, but a special love of “loud” games and toys develop.
As abstract thinking develops, new fears emerge. The fairy wolf or the wicked wizard can now not only cause a real fright, but also haunt the child in his dreams. Fear of the dark and loneliness comes to the fore and has a very different character from that of an infant; its source is no longer the primitive limbic system, but the subcortical area of the brain.
The child continues to fear fairy tale characters, but psychologists attribute these emotions to a basic fear of punishment and rejection by parents.
By the age of four, the baby’s emotional preferences within the family are markedly changing or manifesting themselves – a girl is more drawn to her father and a boy is even more drawn to his mother. This lays the foundation for a future relationship with a partner of the opposite sex in the future. The lack of attention or rejection of the object of your child’s attention is a cause of great anxiety.
Fear of heights, darkness and pain are common in preschool children, but infants with a particularly active imagination are affected much more severely. Combat such fears the method of “the other way around”, that is: afraid of the dark – turn off all the lights, afraid of heights – will ride the Ferris wheel, not only cruel and useless, but also dangerous. There is a great risk of making the child a neurotic, who will be treated throughout his/her adult life.
The fear of death is the most characteristic of children aged 6 to 8 when they realize that the end of life is real and not only the bird or hamster may die, but also their mother and even themselves. The fear is so overpowering and can come so suddenly that it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Childhood fears are a normal and natural phenomenon, marking stages in the development of the nervous system. There is no need to fight them with drastic methods, but you should not indulge them either. The easiest way through these stages, if my mother is calm and understanding of his problems.
Children’s fears should be taken seriously, despite the fact that they seem ridiculous and far-fetched. Parents should be aware that the road from “normal” fears to those that require professional help is a short one, and unfortunately, we are sometimes the ones to blame.
Watch the language you use with your children, don’t manipulate, don’t use fear-mongering to get the result you want in a short time.
Phrases to avoid when talking to your child:
- “If you don’t obey, they will take you to the police.
- “If you misbehave, I’ll put you in foster care with other parents.”
- “If you don’t stop your tantrums, I’ll call a doctor and he’ll give you an injection and take you to the hospital.” “Don’t go there, the Grey Wolf lives there.”
- “Don’t run, you’ll fall, hit yourself and go to hospital”…
The list of parental manipulations could go on and on. Don’t bully children, explain the real reason, switch the focus to reassure the child, trust and love your little runaways.
What to do if your child has fears and worries
Determine the cause.
- Get creative, draw together – let your child express their fears on paper, make up stories in which they are the protagonist – the strongest and bravest.
- If your child is afraid to sleep in the dark, turn on a night light (such as a starry sky projector), tell a story, give them your favourite toy and let them fall asleep cuddled up to feel safe.
- Play situations that will help to overcome fears, for example, the child is afraid of doctors – play hospital, if your baby is afraid of the dark – become scouts.
- Hug your child more often, talk to him about his worries, he needs to feel your love and protection.
- Be patient with your child’s fears, overcoming them takes time and work together. You can help your child to get rid of their worries, so they do not turn into a neurosis, increased anxiety, fear of society.
- Do not scold, shame or punish your child for his fears.
- Develop your child’s independence and let it know that it already knows and can do a lot.
- Keep an eye on what your child is watching and don’t let it spend too much time at the tablet or on the television. Watch helpful cartoons together and read the right books. Listen the music.