Preventing Fear

As the holiday season approaches, many young children will look forward to all of the new adventures the season brings.

But for some hesitant young souls, the thought of a new experience brings a fear of the unknown – especially if they have already lived through situations where they were unprepared (unpleasant travel, a hospital stay, divorce arrangements).

When a child knows what to expect ahead of time, he is less likely to experience fear. 

If you already know about the new experiences your child will be facing this season, perhaps you could take the time now to prepare him. Below is an example of how to assure and reassure a child that all will be well.

Recently, one of our associates traveled with her 3-year-old son to Northern Ireland. In anticipation of the airport ordeal, we wrote a 24 page picture book of what to expect. It included walking through the metal detector, the pat down, stroller storage, dinner and breakfast, sleeping on the plane (some passengers wore masks), restroom issues, when he would have access to his book bag, changing planes in London, luggage retrieval, and the taxi ride.

The book and the trip were a wonderful success. He carried it in his book bag and referred to it often – on his own – for both the trip there and for the return flights.

Here are a few tips to help you write your own “Book of Anticipation.”

We bought a small, hard cover photo album at a dollar store. We had several designs to choose from and selected the one with the most sturdy binding. The pages were written in MSWord, with photos from Google images.

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The educational principle illustrated above is discussed on our website in the article titled “Building a Network of Prior Knowledge.

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In our last post we talked about Preventing Fear in young children. The article referred to new experiences and how to prepare a child by letting him know in advance what to expect.

Today, we are focusing on fear once more. But this post is a different story. For the next month we will be inundated with opportunities for children to take in fear. Halloween horror on television, scary sitcoms, even well-meaning costumed employees in the market place will present challenges for our little ones.

Therefore we must remember that when considering cognitive development, young children cannot differentiate between fact and fantasy. They are not yet able to distinguish between what is real and what is pretend.

We give life to many inanimate objects in a child’s day. Puppets talk, cartoon characters speak, interactive video people respond. We declare that the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny are real, then we try to explain to a young child that the lady at the cash register who is dressed as a witch is really pretend? You can see how confusing an issue this becomes for our little ones.

So what is a parent to do? We believe that the best course of action these next few weeks is two-fold:

1. Anticipate and conquer fear at every opportunity. Be aware of what your child is exposed to on television and in public. Be watchful, because fear has a way of sneaking in and taking dominion if it is not dealt with. Fear about one thing tends to bleed over into other areas and before you know it, fear has become a stronghold in the child’s life.

2. Remind your child that – in Jesus – he is well-able to conquer every foe, including fear. In the name of Jesus, monsters in the closet as well as bad dreams have to flee, for your child is more than a conqueror. He is equipped with the armor of God and well protected from all things scary and frightening! Help your child develop a militant mindset against fear. Help him recognize it – take dominion over it – and conquer it.

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