Normal Fears

The following is taken from the book: What to do When Your Child has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by A. Wagner.

Fears are so common a part of growing up that almost half of the children between the ages of 6 and 12 have seven or more fears.  Girls tend to report more fears than boys do at most ages.  But not all fears are a part of nornal development and not all of them are outgrown without assistance.  Knowing the normal course of childhood fears will help you gauge if your child is in a phase that he will outgrow or if you should indeed be concerned.  The following is a summary of fears across the lifespan.

1. Infants begin to ferar strangers around the age of seven months and outgrow this fear naturally around the second year of life.

2. Toddlers fear separation from their parents.  They may be afraid of loud or sudden noises and new, large or potentially dangerous things.

3. Preschoolers shy away from new, unfamiliar and overwhelming environments.  They may fear potentially harmful or dangerous things such as large dogs, snakes, the dark, bad dreams or imaginary characters such as monsters.

4. Elementary school children become aware of the real dangers of the world such as strangers, diseases, accidents, disasters and death.

5. During middle childhood, the focus of fears is on school-related events, particularly those involving academic performance and friendships.  Natural phenomena such as thunderstorms, earthquakes and floods are also worrisome.  Older children may worry about their parents getting hurt, dying or divorced.

6. Adolescent fears shift into the more abstract realm including the future, rejection in social relationships, moral issues, dating competence, independence and career choices.

7. Adults worry about the challenges of supporting themselves and the family financially, job satisfaction and stability, marital or dating relationships, children and parenting.

8. Fears pretaining to illness, pain, death, medical and dental procedures, doctor visits, natural disasters, wars and traumatic events can occur among children and adults.

School-aged children may also take to heart newly learned information pertaining to danger and safety.  As a parent, you may have encountered your youngster’s alarm and excessive vigilance after learning about the dangers of salmenella at school.  Suddenly, your previously “grubby” child became the epitome of hygiene, meticulously washing his hands and monitoring the entire family’s health habits.  Your initial delight in your child’s metamorphosis soon turned to dismay, as his constant queries and admonitions about cleanliness began to fray your nerves.  However, in most cases, there is a novelty effect present and the intensity of the preoccupations wears off in due time.

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