Fright night cometh. Emotional Fitness Training Fact: Being scared in reasonable amounts as a child builds Emotional Intelligence.
The Daily Prompt asked for what frightens you. Why do you like some fears and not others? This cartoon that I found on frugal cafe.com via google images makes the point nicely. We should be scared of a few things and not of many things. Figuring that out moves us onto adulthood.
Kids don’t code the real world very well. So kids have to deal with lots of fears. Until six or seven, what you feel determines what you think is real. At that age, dolls and toys are the stuff Disney’s Toy Story movies are made of – toys talk, they walk, they are real. The child who still believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy also believes in ghosts, goblins, and monsters.
When the magic of Santa and Tooth Fairy fade, the child has made a significant step forward in the job of coding reality.
Emotional Fitness Training Reality Check: Fear is a fact of life, but also a feeling that says run and hide, when that is not necessary most of the time. Part of growing up as the cartoon shows involves separating fears into run and hide or stand and face ones. Fright night is part of that process.
Another Emotional Fitness Training Reality Check: Being a little bit scared, managing to face what scares you, and then realizing you were brave and are now safe provides a big endorphin (feel-good) rush.
And that my friends explains why Hollywood can make mega bucks scaring us half to death.
Think this is taught in all be-a-therapist-courses. Ha. Not in the ones I took. Life with my many foster children taught me this one, the gurus of therapy never mentioned it.
The major lesson: for some kids scary movies strengthened their ability to deal with life’s real fears. Not so for all kids. Some loved them, some like me preferred lighter fare.
Same with the scary movie’s siblings: Beat ’em Up, Trash and Smash, Fire and Flying Body Part films. Such movies calm some kids but another group of kids got revved up and ready to rampage. Same explanation for why some kids calmed down using a punching bags, while a few others turned from hitting the bag to hitting people.
Parenting advice about children’s fears
Tip one: Remember age and stage. As mentioned above the younger the child, the more what he or she feels drives fears. Your job at that stage is to comfort and code reality. How do you code reality with a preschooler? It is a long process but you can begin by just labeling toys and other things as real or not real, will hurt you or won’t hurt you. Alive or play stuff.
Tip two: Remember temperament. An anxious child needs lots more help.
Tip three: Teach safe and dangerous. A child instinctively knows to run to his or her parents when scared. When that happens, just saying “You’re safe” starts teaching about safety.
Walks along city streets are also good time to teach the word “Safe.” “Safe to cross, now.” “Hold my hand to stay safe.” “Seat belts keep you safe.” “Green light means safe to cross.” “Red light means danger.”
Tip four: When a child is frightened ask what he or she needs to feel safe. This works really well with night fears which start as toddler-hood is ending.
One of my kids wanted a flash light and a water gun; the other wanted my “Bug Spray.” Took a bit of questioning on my part to find out he meant my perfume sprayed around the room. Makes the point about feelings driving fears at this age. Smelling my perfume made him feel like I was with him, and so he felt safe.
Tip five: Teach self-soothing skills, start with the OMM.
Tip six: Once kids can read, and before they become teens who don’t listen to you, talk realistically and fairly often about the difference between what might be, what is real, and what is not. Also make the point that why we like scary movies is because we survive them, but real life dangers and hurts are a whole different ball game something risk takers need to learn.
Tip six: Model what you want from your child. Start by learning the OMM and creating your own safe place. Sharing your safe place with your child.
As I tell myself a thousand times a day, stay strong, give lots of love, be grateful, live now, have lots of luck.
As always thank you for following me. If you know someone else who will benefit from my thoughts, share. Liking, commenting, and sharing are other ways you can help me stay strong and spread some ideas others might find helpful.
Articles and links of interest
- Fear (en.wikipedia.org)
- Fears in children (kidshealth.org)
- The Daily Prompt Fright Night (wordpress.com)
- Self-Soothing – Creating Calm inYour Life (amazon.com)
P.S. This blog post was in response to October 10, 2013 Daily Prompt Question: Do you like being scared by books, films, and surprises? Describe the sensation of being scared, and why you love it — or don’t.