What to Do When Your Kid is Afraid of Everything

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A mom recently reached out to me about her six-year-old son. Although he’s never shown any signs of anxiety in the past, kindergarten seemed to be the year of fears. Spiders? Scary! Dogs? Scary! Cars driving just a little too fast? Super scary! She tried her best to soothe his fears but with a big family trip coming up, she didn’t want a new fear of flying to emerge and put a damper on the vacation. She also didn’t want him to have to exist in a state of fear, but she was out of ideas.

Childhood fears do tend to spike between the ages of 5-8. While the days of monsters under the bed might fade away, real world fears become a new reality. This is the period of development when kids begin to understand that bad things can and do happen in the world. Natural disasters, death, robberies, car accidents and getting lost are fairly common fears among the grade school crowd. Separation anxiety can return for some during this time, but for others specific fears become heightened.

A child who witnessed a dog bite, for example, might develop a fear of dogs. Similarly, a child who endures a fender bender might suddenly fear the car. Children in this age group tend to engage in globalized thinking. They apply one experience to a wide range of potential experiences. This can result in excessive fears.

Not to worry, you and your child will get through this. Forcing the issue, no matter the fear, will only intensify the emotional experience. Do not shame, embarrass or yell at your child because of his fears. While your child’s fears might be frustrating for you, your child isn’t trying to upset you. He’s struggling with his emotional responses to fear and needs your support.

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What to Do When Your Kid is Afraid of Everything

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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