The ABC's of Helping Children Conquer Fear During Scary Times
By Tresaca Hamilton | Dec 1, 2020
It is common for children to have fears. They may have fears that they will eventually outgrow such as being scared of the monster under the bed. The year of 2020 has given them fears that they will have to cope with alongside adults, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. And children of color have additional adult level fears to cope with including racism and the threat of police brutality. It may not be easy to change the world that is causing so many fears in children, but implementing new techniques to help them conquer their fears so they can thrive in this scary world is as easy as learning your ABC’s.
Here are the ABC’s of helping children conquer fear during scary times:
A is for Acknowledge: Acknowledge your child’s fear when they share their feelings. Listen to them talk about their fears no matter how little or small it is…or how irrational or rational it is. Allow them to tell you how they fear going to bed alone because of the monster under the bed. Allow them to tell you how they fear going to the store with you because of all of the people wearing masks. Let them share their fears with you and then let them know you heard them by acknowledging what they told you. Repeat what they said back to them to gain a better understanding of what they are trying to tell you. Tell them you understand what they are saying and discuss their fears with them.
B is for Believe: Believe children when they talk about their fears. Even though an adult may know certain fears are not real, the fears are real to children who are not able to think in concrete terms like adults. Believe the child who is afraid of the monster under the bed, because even though the monster may not be real, the child is afraid of something that is real to them. The “monster” they are trying to tell you about could represent their fear of being harmed when they are alone…even in their own home. This could be due to all of the scary images they have seen in the media of people of color being harmed and killed in their own homes or communities. Believe children enough to get to the root of their fear.
C is for Conquer: Help children conquer their fears through coping skills and techniques. It is easy to help a child face their fears when they are afraid of the monster under the bed by looking under the bed with them to see that the monster doesn’t exist. But what if the real monster they are afraid of is racism? Sit down with them on the bed to discuss their fears, and also share your fears with them to validate the existence of this very real monster. Discuss what is being done to conquer racism in the world by viewing media that is focused on this topic. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a very real fear in people everywhere, and this has negatively impacted everyday activities such as going outside and visiting the store. Children learn behaviors from adults, and their fears are compounded by what they are seeing in this scary world right now. Help your child conquer their fear of going to the store with you by playing the Mask Game. Instead of focusing on the fear of being exposed to COVID-19 while visiting the store and having to wear masks, focus on the variety of masks you see in the store. Make it a game to see how many masks you notice, and then give imaginary prizes for the most unusual mask, the prettiest mask, the best statement mask and so on. You will help your child conquer their fear and learn how to reframe a negative experience into a positive one.
The real key to helping your child conquer their fear during scary times is teaching them that they can not only survive the scary times…but they can also thrive during the scary times and beyond.