When I innocently bought Finding Nemo on DVD for my daughter last year, I never expected that watching it would cause her so much distress. I realised after a few weeks that children have fears that can seem so silly to adults, but when you look at them from their perspective, they’re not so silly after all. Bath times in our household used to be fun, with plenty of smiles and laughter, but then they turned sour (coincidentally after she had watched Finding Nemo a number of times) and she began refusing to step foot in the bath. We soon realised that she was terrified of being sucked down the plughole and washed away to the ocean, just as Nemo had been in the movie. Despite how hard we tried to explain to her that it was impossible, she wouldn’t budge.
At first it was extremely frustrating as sponge baths were all that we could manage, but eventually after many discussions and lots of praise she started to come around. If your child has a fear, here are some helpful tips that may come in handy on the road to overcoming them.
Be patient. As frustrating as it may be, accept that it may be some time before your child is ready to tackle their fear again. It could be days, weeks, maybe even years, but eventually their fear should start to ease and become more bearable.
Encourage your child to confront their fear but don’t force them to do something they don’t want to do. Ultimately this could make the situation far worse and the road to recovery even longer.
Ask your child to explain why they are scared of something and then reassure them that there is no reason for them to be scared because monsters aren’t real, or because they can’t physically fit down the plughole.
Understand your child’s fear but don’t necessarily say that you share the same view because this could imply to the child that there is in fact something to be scared of.
Comfort them when they are in fear. Laughing or ignoring your child’s plea for help could only damage their fragile state.
Try a reward system. If your child is successful in confronting their fear or even taking a small step towards doing so, praise them accordingly or give them a reward for being so brave.
Do you have a fear? If so, think about what you feel like when you’re scared. As adults, we can rationalise situations and we have the capacity to understand fears. Young children who are only starting out in the world don’t yet have those abilities so fear to them can be extremely overwhelming. If you feel like your child is struggling to overcome their fear there are always people you can contact for advice. Try your GP, a parent line or even a psychologist.
I’m happy to say that my daughter loves bath times again, although it took months for her to have toys in the bath again. She was scared they too would be sucked into oblivion, so for a long time bath times were simple. But eventually we got there and for us it all came down to one simple thing – patience.
Image via newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/when-children-avoid-scary-situations-they-are-likelier-to-develop-anxiety/
By Karyn Miller