Childhood Fears

Do you remember what it was like for you when you were a kid and scared of the dark, scared there were creatures under your bed that would grab you by the ankles when you got out of bed or monsters in your closet?

You haven’t thought about it lately? Ok, stop, right now and close your eyes and concentrate. Think back to when you were little and scared.  What do you remember?  Do you remember how you felt….being all alone in that room… in the dark…with nothing to keep you safe but your nightlight?

Parents will often bring children to me to address fears, childhood fears; scared of the dark, scared to go to school, scared that mom and dad will die, etc.

Sometimes, it is a childhood fear. Sometimes, it is an emerging phobia.  Sometimes, it is the child getting in touch with the harsh realities of life.

How do I help?

There is a closet in my therapy office that, when you put a rug at the base of the door, It is COMPLETELY dark inside. You literally cannot see you hand in front of your face. So….when I have the opportunity to work with a child who is scared of the dark, we go in there (The parent(s) are present in the office.). I start by letting them be in charge of the light, turning it on and off. Then, we will play cards, talk, tell each other stories in there by, by flashlight, candle light, etc.  In the meantime, I consult with the parents.  Sometimes, they have unwittingly enabled this behavior; there may also be other, outside issues present, playing a role.

In the case of social phobias (an increasing frequent issue), I examine the child’s and family’s socialization patterns, spent in front of “screens”, family history of anxiety struggles and parenting.

The same with children struggling with accepting harsh realities in life; parents and grandparents dying, parents divorcing, friends moving away, etc.  The first step I take here is to have as frank a discussion as I can with the child about the reality with which they are struggling. I find kids are much more willing to discuss such fears when they sense the adult with them are taking their worries seriously.