It’s no wonder our kids find some things scary. So much of it is new to them! And if you add to that a difficulty communicating and different ways of processing sensory information, children are bound to need a little extra time and help along the way.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have things that make us feel afraid. It’s helpful to think about our own fears to better sympathise with children in those tricky moments.
There’s lots of things we can do to help children understand and manage their fears. Here’s some practical ideas to get you started.
Acknowledge the feelings. It’s easy for us to dismiss childhood fears and simply say ‘It’s not scary’, but the reality is that our kids our experiencing genuine fear and worry in the moment. We can help children more by commenting on what’s happening and having a go at naming how the child might be feeling.
Give some control over the situation. When something is scary, it can be reassuring to be able to go at your own pace: approach and then retreat. It can also be reassuring to have some choice over what happens. So, look for opportunities to let your child be in control of the pace or make choices about some of the details.
Talk about what’s scary. Being able to talk through the details, find out more information, ask questions is all helpful in getting more comfortable with new things.
Look for things that provide extra support. What are the things that might help your child to feel more comfortable? A particular toy? Or perhaps a preliminary visit before the big event?
Celebrate the tiny attempts. Noticing the tiny steps of progress, reminding ourselves how far we’ve come already… these are important when progress feels slow.
Find a way to feel okay. If your child is too afraid to do some of the things you had planned, that can be hard and you matter too! Consider what might still make the situation enjoyable for you.