As with any other emotion, fear has its own purpose: it helps us identify threats. It has been a very successful survival mechanism for centuries.
According to research, such as The Cliff study, your baby was born only with two innate fears: fear of falling and of loud sounds. Neuroscientists point out that the rest of their fears will be developed by association when interacting with their environment.
One of our main responsibilities is to teach our children to be more careful. Exploration is a great tool, but our primary concern is to keep them safe. Without even noticing it, you can influence your little one to acquire certain fears. Have you ever seen them hit themselves, keep their cool, and don’t cry until you scream out of fright? By stopping them abruptly, giving contradictory information, or being scared yourself you might start to accidentally foster fears, and at such a young age their imagination can run wild.
A case study of children who overcame phobias found that the common factor in the success of the kids was family involvement. When children experimented with stressful circumstances, having family close and feeling supported reduced the stress level and helped them overcome their fears.
Tips to help your little one overcome their fears and keep their curiosity alive
- If they see you are scared, then try to explain what you feel and why you feel it. Give examples of other times you have experienced this, and it was easily solved.
- Be patient. If they are getting scared, be patient and comprehensive. Make them feel heard and respected. Acknowledge their emotions and make them feel safe. The way you address their emotions affects how expressive they will feel they can be later on.
- Don’t force them. They might be scared of trying something new. Keep close to them, support them, and don’t make them face their fear if they are not ready.
- Be emotionally available for your little one, especially during bedtime. Support your child in times of difficulty. This will make them feel safer.
- Face fears together. They might feel a lot calmer if you face the situation together. For example, if they are scared of going down the stairs, grab their hand, sit next to each other, and go down the stairs one step at a time. With your love and support, they’ll feel they can conquer more stairs each time. Eventually, they’ll feel ready to go down the stairs by themselves.
Providing a safe environment for your little one to explore will foster their independence, self-care, and emotional intelligence skills while keeping a curious mind!
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Reference: The Cliff Study