Understanding And Calming Fear
Author: Linnea Sieh
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”- Marie Curie
Happy October! Fall brings many joys- crunchy leaves, warm fires, hot cocoa, warm spiced apple cider, and pumpkin spice everything. It can also bring some unexpected fear too, especially as we get closer to Halloween. We start to see skeletons, witches, goblins, giant spiders, and graveyards appearing in front yards. Stores might be playing spooky music and there might be more scary movies on TV. Haunted houses appear along with haunted corn mazes and hay rides.
While these can all be fun things, it’s good to check in with your younger kids to make sure they are feeling okay about all the spookiness. Children with anxiety can be especially susceptible to being scared and sometimes new fears can pop up rapidly. It’s important to validate childrens’ emotions and allow them the space to be able to tell you why they are scared. They may not know right away, but opening up the door may help them tell you more things later as well. Of course, if your child is in therapy, you can definitely talk to their counselor about any additional fears.
So what can you do to help your child be less scared?
-Sticking to a routine (especially for anxious children) can be helpful.
-Notifying them beforehand if you plan on going on a haunted hayride or in a haunted house and giving them a chance to say no.
-Practice thinking about how to respond in scary situations.
-Talking about peer pressure to do these things and having a way for them to decline (my parents said no, have to get home, etc.)
-Asking questions about books, movies/TV, music, etc if they have scary themes.
-Keeping up a good bedtime routine. Less sleep makes people jumpy or unable to react as usual.
-Using Deep Breathing techniques, yoga, or other meditative techniques
Here are some simple coping strategies you can use at home for your child, if they are experiencing extra fear:
Have your child breath in for a count of five, hold their breath for a count of 2, and breath out for a count of five. If the pause is uncomfortable or affects breathing, you can have them just count their breaths in for five and out for five.
5 Senses Grounding:
Have your child use their senses to bring them out of their fear and back into the room. 5- Have them look and tell you 5 things they see in the room.
4- Have them touch four different things with different textures.
3- Have them listen and tell you three things they hear.
2- Have them tell you two things they can smell.
1- Give them a small piece of food (chocolate, a piece of dried fruit, a fruit snack, etc,) or a small drink of something and have them tell you what they taste.
Practice a scary situation ahead of time:
This one may be hard to do in some cases, but you can talk about what you might see at the event, while trick or treating, or for nerve wracking situations in general. Scary situations and fear aren’t just limited to Halloween, after all.
Using Fear Reducing Statements:
Saying things like “I am brave, I can handle this, or I know how to ask for help” can help children feel more prepared and comfortable getting help. Practicing a powerful pose can also help boost confidence.
Of course, talking to your child’s counselor at All Things Possible is very important too so that the counselor can assist in identifying additional coping skills. We are here to help!