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Childhood Fears and Anxieties

Experts describe how parents can help when their child is afraid.

How can you help your child with fears like these? continued...

This technique helps kids make the connection between how they feel when they're telling themselves these two very different stories, says Chansky.

Children who are afraid of natural disasters might also shift into a different mindset by teaching their parents what they've learned at school about storms, tornadoes, or earthquakes. This helps them solidify a different way of looking at the situation.

Chanksy explains that these techniques work well for children who are more cognitively oriented. For kids who are physically tense, worry a lot at night, and have trouble sleeping, relaxation techniques may be just the ticket.

Lori Lite, a certified children's meditation facilitator, discovered the merits firsthand with her own children. One child was hyperactive and chronically ill. And another was experiencing stress-related night terrors. By developing her own stories that incorporated deep-breathing, affirmations, and muscular relaxation, she was able to greatly help her own children. Today, she creates and distributes products like these, through her web site,

"The benefit is that you don't have to go to a class. You don't have to have a degree. You don't have to have a lot of money," says Lite. "All you need to do is turn on a CD or read a book."

General Guidelines for Any Age

When your child is afraid -- whether at age 5 or 15 -- remember to approach the fears with respect. Chansky suggests following these basic guidelines:

  • Don't try to talk your child out of being afraid.
  • Stay calm and confident. How you talk to your child about fears is as important as what you say.
  • When helping your child to confront fears, find out what feels comfortable. Don't force your child to do more than that. However, don't give your child a total "out." Complete avoidance isn't the answer for anxiety.
  • Practice coping responses in a variety of ways: with drawing, stuffed animals, or role-playing.
  • Reward efforts -- big or small.

Reviewed on April 01, 2007

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