Focus on the Family

Childhood Fears

by Colleen Shemeley

Just as your children grow and change, so do their fears. Monsters under the bed, thunderstorms or loud noises probably no longer cause your child to need your reassuring words and hugs. Fourth and fifth graders' most common anxieties are being kidnapped, parents divorcing, someone dying, fires, burglars, school failure and being a social outcast.

Psychologists have discovered that distinguishing between fear and anxiety is often difficult in children. Fear is a response to a situation (a neighbor's dog), while anxiety is being worried about something that hasn't happened yet (a shot at the doctor's office). Once parents realize this difference, they can better help their child cope.

If your child's anxiety repeatedly interrupts her daily life, consider consulting a counselor, pediatrician or pastor for advice on minimizing these heart-pounding fears.

Stress at Home

Dr. Archibald Hart answers how stress at home and parents' attitudes affect their children.

by Ask the Expert with Dr. Archibald Hart

Q: Does the attitude we take as parents have a dramatic effect on our children? We're getting them up in the morning with "Hurry up. Get ready. I've got to go to work and you've got to go to school. Take a bite and eat quick, hurry, get ready!"

A: I think that's absolutely true. Children are being taught to live at a hectic pace in today's society. The home — the family environment — creates the stress problems that so many children experience later in life. It's in the home, therefore, in the family, that the solution to the problem lies. What we model to our children teaches them the values that will determine whether they're going to live a stressful life or not.

Parents are busier than ever these days. I'm not saying, "Don't finish your projects. Don't tackle that pile of dishes. Don't tackle that pile of paper." I'm saying to make it a point to sit back and relax with your family.

Don't use adrenaline to get everything done. We're using high-octane adrenaline to do stuff that can be done with very little energy. Don't sit all tensed up; don't drive the car with your adrenaline surging.

There are certain emotions that demand adrenaline. When you're angry, resentful or frustrated, your adrenaline is pumping. Don't do your work with anger or frustration.

If tackling that pile of papers or sink of dishes is going to make you angry and frustrated, set it aside; leave the task. Go hug your child; play a game of Monopoly; spend a few minutes thanking God for your home, family and job. Come back when your mind is at peace. Believe me, your children will take notice — and your physical and emotional well-being will improve.

Next Steps and Related Information

Additional resources on responding to your child's fears

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