Kids are usually fearless, they move forward and do whatever they want or rather whatever they desire. For example, if they want to cross the road then they will just run. They haven’t developed enough to understand the dangers that are out there. The things that we as adults are frightened of! Of course we learn through trial and error, for example, I know that if I put my hand on a hot stove I will burn and I only need to do it once to learn that I shouldn’t do it again. It is a conditioning that I am happy for.
But I always wondered how are we supposed to teach our kids when it is safe to for example cross the road, when are our fears rational and when do they become irrational? At what point are they a good tool used by our sub conscience to protect us and at what point are they used to hinder us from development?
One particular fear that I remember growing up as a child is the separation and utter misery I felt when my parents went out for the evening and left me with a baby sitter. I remember being so scared that they were not going to come back or that something terrible was going to happen. Of course, all children get this to some degree, but how do we teach our kids that everything is going to be ok, that it is a normal part of life? Why do kids feel this way? At what age did I start to feel this way and what made it so different?
How do I teach a child how to manage their emotions and the differences between the irrational fears and the rational ones? How do I teach my child that there are no goblins hiding under the bed, how do I teach her that she is frightening herself?
I remember I used to be scared to go to sleep at night because I thought there were ghosts in my room. We used to live opposite a graveyard and at times I would let my imagination run away with me. I would often have nightmares too and so bedtime was always a very stressful time for me. I hated going to sleep and cried almost every night. I remember my mother used to sit on my bed with me and stroke my head. She would leave the light on so that I could see. She would tuck me into my duvet like a cocoon so that nothing could get to me and would tell me to picture something that I loved. She told me to paint the picture in my head and focus on that and the lovely feelings that came with it. I would focus on a picture of a chocolate birthday cake with candles on it and as per her instructions I would tell myself that I wasn’t going to have a bad dream. Every night for years I would imagine this cake and repeat over and over again that I was going to be fine and I wasn’t going to have a bad dream. And eventually it worked!