We found safe ways to explore or be expose them to the things they were scared of. We primarily used children’s books, video clips, lighthearted conversations, and safe direct-exposure.
VIDEO CLIPS: Use YouTube or parts from family friendly movies that have their feared item or event to help them see and understand their fear more. Sit as a family and watch and discuss it. Don’t mention the child’s fear, just talk about what is happening, give info, and answer any questions. Start with animated versions and then moved to more realistic versions as they became more confident.
LIGHT-HEARTED CONVERSATIONS: When the subject of a fear comes up in conversations always stay casual and positive. Never harp on the child for being afraid. Simply answer their questions and provide info. If they are afraid of tornadoes (for example) then while looking out the window you might discuss weather and bring up tornados. Tell your child about how tornados are formed and how your family can be prepared for a tornado. Go over your plan with them about what you would do if a tornado came to your neighborhood. Through your conversations about their fear-subject you can communicate realistic facts and help develop confidence that the fear is under their control.
SAFE DIRECT EXPOSURE: For certain fears you may be able to let them actually experience it (animals, dark, water, etc). Find opportunities where they can be near their fear with you close by in a fun and emotionally safe way. If they are afraid of dogs, arrange a time to volunteer at the animal shelter to care for dogs or go to your neighbor’s house to throw a ball for their friendly dog. If they are afraid of the dark then take them into a dark room and let them be in charge of turning off and on the lightswitch as when and how much they want.
Most of what they are afraid of is the UNKNOWN. So help them to know it and you may see that gradually their fears diminish. Overall, stay calm and positive with them, they need your secure emotional support while dealing with their fears.