Fear is a natural response to threatening situations, but sometimes fear can prevent people from participating in everyday experiences. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. When a child struggles with a phobia, it can greatly impact their lives and the lives of their families. Psychologists Claire A. B. Freeland, PhD and Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD explain how parents can help kids with phobias overcome their fears by supporting gradual, increasing exposure to the feared situation, helping kids learn mindfulness and self-calming techniques, promoting positive self-talk, and monitoring exposure to frightening messages from the world at large in Magination Press book What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias. Take small steps The most effective way to overcome a phobia is exposure, which requires the child to experience the feared object for a period of time long enough for their extreme physical and emotional reactions to dissipate. One of the greatest challenges in helping a child to overcome a phobia can be convincing them to hang in there rather than avoid their fear, and to provide support as they do so. It’s important to approach the trigger in a modulated way. Initially, a child may need help choosing tasks that are far removed from the feared experience, such as imagining a thunderstorm or looking at pictures of insects. Taking it slowly and letting a child experience success by overcoming mildly scary situation will allow them to build confidence in facing increasingly more feared situations. Build skills In addition to helping a child increase her exposure to her phobia, parents can help her develop strategies to manage her reactions to scary experiences. By developing positive self-talk, a child can learn to focus on rational thinking and self-cheerleading to proceed with exposure experiences. Providing rewards, both tangible and social, will help them feel accomplishment and pride in taking on gradually more difficult challenges. Learning coping strategies that help them to relax and de-stress can reduce overall anxious tendencies, making success more likely. Manage Media Phobias can result from frightening or traumatic experiences, but more often, they don’t have a known source. Children who tend to be anxious may be likely to develop a specific phobia. Children are particularly susceptible to developing vicarious fears. This happens when they observe another person reacting with intense fear. Or, a fear can develop vicariously by watching a movie where another is afraid or even from a news report that accentuates the damage caused by a storm or the abundance of a particular illness this season. Parents should be aware of messages children may encounter that could serve to reinforce their fears. Gently redirect adult conversation about impending weather events, recent accidents, or out-of-control animals. Judiciously monitor children’s experiences with frightening messages they receive through the media. When such messages still manage to reach a child, a parent can counter scary messages with more realistic views of the possible danger and how people can stay safe. HelpingRead More
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes someone to have intruding and recurrent thoughts, called obsessions. These intruding thoughts can become all-consuming. Compulsions are strong urges to do something over and over to feel a sense of relief from these obsessions. They’re often referred to as rituals for this reason. Compulsions are a clever way to feel better at first because they immediately reduce anxiety. Unfortunately, they can increase over time and become all-consuming as well, making the person to feel even worse. Obsessions and compulsions work together, like a game of volleyball. You need both to keep them going. Compulsions feed obsessions. By working to resist urges to do compulsions, someone with OCD can diminish their obsessions. According to the International OCD Foundation (1), common obsessions and compulsions include: Obsessions Worrying about germs, getting sick, or dying. Extreme fears about bad things happening or doing something wrong. Feeling that things have to be “just right.” Disturbing and unwanted thoughts or images about hurting others. Disturbing and unwanted thoughts or images of a sexual nature. Compulsions Excessive checking (re-checking that the door is locked, that the oven is off). Excessive washing and/or cleaning. Repeating actions until they are “just right” or starting things over again. Ordering or arranging things. Mental compulsions (excessive praying, mental reviewing). Frequent confessing or apologizing. Saying lucky words or numbers. Excessive reassurance seeking (e.g., always asking, “Are you sure I’m going to be okay?”). The truth is, most people repeat certain behaviors from time to time and it’s common for children to have rituals or routines before school, after school or at bedtime. OCD rituals differ in that they become too frequent, and most importantly, they’re upsetting to the child and get in the way of everyday activities. Some people wonder if OCD is the same as worrying, but it’s not. Worries come and go, such as, “What if I’m not good enough to make the team?” or “What if I don’t have anyone to sit with at lunch?” With OCD, the same upsetting thought comes back again and again. Children don’t always know how to talk about their obsessions and compulsions. It doesn’t make sense to them so how could it make sense to someone else? They may wonder what’s wrong with them or why they’re like this when no one else seems to be. It can be embarrassing. For this reason, they can be very good at hiding their symptoms and suffering in silence. Parents may notice the following behaviors in children with OCD: You are always waiting for them. Timely transitions are difficult for children with OCD because they’re functioning within the time constraints of their OCD. Compulsive behaviors may take time to get “just right.” They take a long time to do everyday tasks, such as taking a shower, washing their hands, getting dressed, finishing a project. They may repeat the same actions in the same order repeatedly, such as turning in place, touchingRead More
Facing Anxiety Through Story.
Once upon a time, there lived a princess named Jacqueline. The royal knights protected her from danger — even if there wasn’t any!
When Jacqueline climbs the beanstalk, she meets a giant who is just as afraid of the knights. In this modern retelling of a classic fairy tale, Jacqueline shows everyone that there’s nothing to be afraid of after all.
Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with worry-busting strategies and calming tools.
Everyone feels anxious sometimes. It’s very normal. In fact, anxiety has a useful purpose in our lives; it keeps us safe. When we’re anxious, our bodies set off a reaction called the flight-or-flight response, and this causes changes in our bodies… faster heartbeat, trembling hands, shallow breathing, focused thinking. These changes help us act quickly when we need to, to protect ourselves -like staying away from a wild animal!Read More