(This article is part of our series on Fear and Worry.)
Don’t you think one of the most helpless and frustrating moments as a parent is when our kids have irrational fears, and nothing we say seems to make a difference?
It may be something common like the fear of darkness or monsters under the bed. Or something completely out of ordinary like the fear of ants, or everyday sounds, or imaginary little men living under the nightstand.
How can we help them overcome these fears?
For my daughter, it was an irrational fear of water. Even a splash on her leg from stepping in a puddle made her scream like she’d been cut with a knife. She ran away from dogs because she was afraid they would lick her. I could only bathe her with a sponge in a bucket in front of the TV to distract her. Once, she punched a one year old in the face because she was so afraid the baby would suck on its fingers and then touch her with wet hands.
I had no idea how to help my daughter overcome her fear of water. What help I was able to offer, I mostly discovered by trial-and-error. But recently, I read a book about childhood anxiety that I wish I’d had when my daughter was younger.
In The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears by Lawrence Cohen, I found many of the strategies I stumbled on over the years, as well as others I wish I’d thought to try. Cohen explores ways to help kids overcome worry by replacing it with its opposites: things like connection, mindfulness, courage, playfulness, and confidence.
If you have a child struggling with irrational fears, here are 5 things you should try -