In general, fear is a tension felt at the moment of perceived danger. As a result of this tension, an emotional arousal is experienced, with physiological symptoms such as muscle strain, sweating and blushing (Yavuzer, 2007), and psychologically, a strong urge to fight the feeling. Some children can cope with fear while some children cannot. Those children who cannot cope with fear often have difficulty sleeping alone, going to the bathroom, or going into another room in the house without a parent.
Fear is a part of a child’s normal developmental process. From six months old, babies can become fearful of foreign objects, places and people (Keskin, 2010). A baby reacts to different environments when they are not with their mother or father - the most familiar and safe objects. They approach new people by crying and looking for mother. This is all part of the child's natural development. This categorising of life and differentiating between foreign and familiar continues until the age of two.
Adults who tell stories that feed children's fear can disrupt their inner world, and cause them to believe that the stories are real. A parent can feed an anxious child’s fear by telling them the outside world is dangerous, that the bogeyman will get them, or that they will be kicked out of the house if they misbehave. The stories we tell our children can cause the problem.
The fear children experience may be caused by imaginary characters, stories or cartoons. It may also be related to actual events, such as a burglary or the loss of a close relative. In such cases, parents should listen and pay attention to their child’s fears.
Parents can help their children develop the ability to deal with fear by reading them stories, spending time with them and taking their feelings seriously. However, if the child's quality of life is suffering, for example, if they are avoiding going to sleep, unable to sleep alone, having crying fits, etc., it is best to seek help from a child psychologist. Professional help should also be sought if parents find themselves responding to a child's fears with over-protective behaviour.
Important things to remember as a parent:
- Fear and anxiety are part of normal development
- Parents are responsible for helping their children through this process
- It is important to take children’s feelings and behaviour seriously
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