help your child overcome their fears

4 Tips to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fears

Hey Mommies…We were at the playground today with our son and he got VERY scared to go down an enclosed twisty slide on his own. He REALLY wanted to do it, but would only go if my husband or I went down with him.

After a few times of going with him, we were ready to be done, and told him he could go alone. This resulted in cries, tears, and screaming because he wanted to do it but was scared. However, by the time we left, he was going down all by himself with a HUGE smile on his face.

There have been many other times that he’s been afraid to try new things. Over the summer it was jumping off the side of the pool and swimming with his floaties where his feet didn’t touch. Other times it’s been climbing up a playground ladder or trying to swing on a big boy swing by himself.

Some children are fearless and will go at things without a thought or care. Other kids are probably more fearful than my son. Either way, here are 4 tips to help your child overcome their fears:

  1. Lots of Encouragement– We tell our son things like “You’re so big! You can do it. It’s so fun! We’re right here. We won’t let you fall. We’ll catch you.” Any and all types of positive encouragement can help your child feel reassured and safe.
  2. Demonstrations– Either demonstrate for your child yourself, or have them watch another child. A lot of times we’ll tell our son, “Look at that boy/girl. They are doing it and having a great time!” Watching other children really seems to help. If your child is able to see another kid doing it, this can help reassure them that it’s okay and fun.
  3. Baby Steps- Start small and work your way up to the action you want your child to do. For example, with jumping into the pool, we started out holding both our son’s hands to get him to jump in. Next, we held one hand. Then, we stood really close and caught him. Eventually, he was jumping out very far and having a great time. If you can slowly work up to the action, it makes it less scary and overwhelming.
  4. Just Go For It- This one is contradictory to “baby steps” but sometimes and with some kids, you just have to push them through the action and go for it. This requires you knowing your child and what they can handle, but sometimes this is what will get your child to realize it’s safe and fun. I was about to do this today on the slide with our son, but he really started to panic so we stopped and took baby steps. Other times, like dunking his head at the pool, I eventually just had to dunk him under. He was not panicking in this situation, though, and handled it just fine. As the parent, you have to make that call.

When your child gets fearful of fun things, it can be quite frustrating. You may think, “Just do it! You’ll like it!” But certain things can be very scary and overwhelming to a little one. Always try to put yourself in their shoes, and be patient and supportive. Soon enough, you’ll be the one who’s scared watching them do crazy, unsafe stunts! 🙂

By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L

Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author