Though this page is addressed to children, the approach to talking about fears and anxieties is also designed to provide guidance to parents and educators. This guide explains in simple and clear terms what fears and anxieties are and how we can deal with them in creative and fun ways. The Kids’ Page can be read and discussed together with a child or can be given to older children for independent reading. Some of the content will be more or less relevant for children of different ages.
What is fear: “You mean everyone is scared?”
Everyone sometimes feels scared and afraid. A person might feel nervous when s/he is watching something on television, or when someone they know in real life gets hurt, or is sick. We often feel scared when there is a natural disaster like an earthquake or a flood. When you feel nervous or afraid you may not feel like going outside, or like playing or visiting with friends. You might also feel sad when you’re afraid, or annoyed. Some of us may feel angry or confused.
Sometimes our fears and anxieties may seem a little ridiculous or silly to us, and that can sometimes make us feel ashamed of them. The most important thing to know is that everyone sometimes feels scared or afraid. Older children and adults have fears, too, and many are the same as yours.
What to do if your parents seem nervous?
You probably are familiar with this: You want to friends or go to a party, and your parents say things like “call me as soon as you get there” or “make sure to be careful on the bus.” When your parents seem nervous, sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. Don’t they understand that you can take care of yourself? The answer is simple: Your parents might also be a little scared. You’re the most important thing in their life and so they’re worried about you. The only thing to do is to try and understand where they’re coming from, and show them how responsible you are. Prove to your parents that you can be relied on, and that they don’t have to worry so much.
How can you prove that you’re responsible?
One way is to call them when you get to where you’re going, or let them know when you’re running late.
How can we cope with fear?
Just like with anything else, where there’s a will, there’s a way! With a little effort you can also learn how to face your fears and anxiety. Fear is just like the neighbors’ little dog: It makes a lot of noise, but it turns out to be quite nice and harmless if you show it that it doesn’t scare you. Here are a few suggestions:
1. If you don’t understand, ask! – Sometimes what we don’t know scares us a lot more than the things we know more about. There can be a lot of words and phrases that we don’t understand, particularly on the television or in the newspaper. Understanding is like a light in a dark room: when everything is dark and unclear, everything looks scary. But when you turn on the light – suddenly you realize that the monster you saw was actually just a piece of furniture. So it’s important to ask your parents or another adult to explain anything that you’re curious about or feel like you don’t understand, particularly if it’s something that makes you nervous.
2. Talk about stuff with your family, teachers, and friends – We all have sometimes have thoughts that bother us or feelings that make us feel uncomfortable. When you share these thoughts and feelings with someone close to you, they’re easier to handle. Talking things over often makes us feel better. Sometimes you’ll be surprised that your friends have similar thoughts, concerns, or fears.
3. Eat well and get enough sleep and exercise – In order to fight tension and fear, you have to be strong – not only in your mind but also in your body. If your body is healthy it gives your mind the strength to deal with fears and nervousness and it also gives you the strength to be happier and stronger.
4. Do things you like – During the day do at least one thing you like doing: drawing, playing football or basketball, or playing with friends. Having fun and being happy are the biggest helpers against fear and anxiety. The secret is that fear itself is a little afraid of fun and happiness: when fear sees smiles, it runs away!
5. Offer to help – sometimes parents, and even grandparents, feel sad or upset. Show them you care and ask them how they’re feeling. Sometimes even they need a little cheering up. Try to make them laugh – it could help both of you.