When the child is afraid, you can support better in the following ways:
- Just respect his/her feelings without looking at whether it is fair or unfair to feel that way. For us adults who have matured our thinking with age, some things may look easy or even funny. However, for your child, it is a great achievement that needs a lot of effort.
- Ask questions that start with ‘what’. You may have already noticed that when we ask children ‘why’ they often give any reason to answer this question. Try better to say, “What are you afraid of or what are you most afraid of?” Give the child time to answer in his/herown words.
- If it is difficult to express himself/herself, give a helping hand. If, for example, the dog is afraid, you may ask, “Is it its barking?”, itsmuzzle, its gaze, “Are you afraid of being bitten?” Often children do not know the real motives of their fear and that is why it is useful to appropriately help them tell their truth, but not responding on their behalf.
- You accept and recognize the child’s emotion. “I understand you are afraid. This dog makes a lot of noise.” It is okay to feel what he/she feels at this moment.
- Do not try to treat the child or solve the problem in his/her position, as we usually try to do. Support the child in the attempt to defeat this fear, but always according to his/her desire. Any expectation on your part will hinder the process.
- Say “SO DO I”. It is so relieving for someone who is afraid. You can talk to the child about your own today or yesterday feelings, when you were a little boy or a little girl. In order the child to feel stronger than you in his/her effort, talk better about a different fear that you had and surely managed to overcome it. Your attitude as an adult over the object of your fear needs to be mild.
- Give the child the opportunity to look for his or her previous reactions that have helped once in the past. “Do you remember a fear that you had and then you overcame it?” If the child does not remember immediately, help saying, “For example, the first time they called you to sleep at Andrea’s house.” Let him/her first talk about the feelings of that experience. “And then you decided to go. Do you remember that you decided? And do you remember overcoming it? You came back home in a happy mood, do you remember?”
- Learn about your child’s fears. After making sure the child feels ready, talk to him more openly.
- Finally, do something completely liberating, helping your child to release energy. Take deep breaths, sing, laugh loudly!