For Parents and Caregivers:
1. Show that you understand your child’s fears
Explain that your child’s fears are completely normal, especially during times of heightened distress (e.g., divorce, loss of a loved one, war).
2. Give your child more information about what is going on in the country and the world
During times of national – and when relevant, international – tension, make sure that the information you give your child suits his/her age and maturity level. Try to make your general tone reassuring, while stressing the resources that your child as an individual, and your family as a whole, has for coping with the situation.
3. Provide your child with information written especially for them
Our Kids’ Page gives child-friendly explanations about the nature of fear and anxiety and how to cope with these feelings in fun and creative ways. If your child has expressed fear, we recommend going over the page with your child.
4. Read books about fears and other emotions with your child
Books can be an indirect way for you and your child to talk about a wide range of emotions, including fear. As you read, talk about the books’ narrative. If your child brings up his/her own fears or emotions, this is an opportunity for you to talk with him/her directly about how s/he has been feeling. If your child does not bring anything up you may not want to press the point. Simply reading the story, or giving the book to your child to read, will allow your child to identify with the characters and learn how each of them coped with their fears. Some recommendations:
There’s a Nightmare In My Closet, by Mercer Mayer
There’s an Alligator Under My Bed, by Mercer Mayer
The Berenstein Bears and the Bad Dream, by Stan and Jan Berenstein
5. Present coping with fears as a struggle that you share with your child
By letting your child know that you are with them during their struggle, your child will know that they are not expected to deal with fears alone.
6. Cope with the fear at a pace that your child is comfortable with
This pace will certainly be a slow one, but it is important not to rush it. The mind, like the body, takes time to overcome fears and injuries, and children must be allowed to advance at their own natural paces.
7. Supervise the level of your child’s exposure to TV and radio
In many cases TV and radio provide live reports and graphic details of natural disasters, terror attacks, and other emergencies. These reports, meant for adults, may be too distressing to children. In these cases, instead of watching or listening to the news, use games, movies, and arts and crafts projects or games to occupy your child.
8. Relaxation techniques
Relaxation can help children feel in control and give them something concrete to do when they are feeling anxious. Enlisting relaxation techniques will also help a child release tension and thus contribute to an increased feeling of wellbeing.
1. Don’t expect your child’s fears to disappear quickly
The disappearance of fears and the return of a feeling of safety are gradual processes that take time. Remember that fears are a normal part of childhood.
2. Don’t embarrass your child because of his/her fears
Your child may already feels ashamed and guilty because of their fears and helplessness in combating them. Try not to intensify these feelings. Instead, explain to him/her that fear is normal, and that many children are afraid of different things.
3. Don’t force your child to confront his/her fears
This could cause further damage. Try and encourage your child to talk about and examine fears, but don’t force your child to do so. You don’t want to put more pressure on him/her at this time.
4. Don’t make overcoming the fear a condition of your love and support
It is important that your child feel that you will value and support even if they do not overcome their fears, lest they add losing your love to their existing fears. Remind your child that overcoming fears is a mission that you will work through together. Make it clear that you love and value them irrespective of their emotions. To children, this statement is not always a given.
Fears are an integral part of the normal development process of children in general, and Israeli children in particular. Fear reflects the insecurity that a child experiences in a frightening world, whose rules s/he does not yet understand. However, fear is also a call for help and support from you, the parents. Finally, fear is also an opportunity to understand your child better — a process from which you will emerge both stronger and encouraged.