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 his fears will be developed by association, when interacting with his 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 him hit himself, keep his cool, and doesn’t cry until you scream out of fright? By stopping him abruptly, giving contradictory information, or being scared yourself you might start to accidentally foster fears, and at such a young age his 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 stressful circumstances, having family close and feeling supported reduced the stress level and helped them overcome their fears.
Here are some tips to help your little one overcome his fears and keep his curiosity alive.
- If he sees 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 he is getting scared, be patient and comprehensive. Make him feel heard and respected. Acknowledge his emotions and make him feel safe. The way you address his emotions affects how expressive he will feel he can be later on.
- Don’t force him. He might be scared of trying something new. Keep close to him, support him, and don’t make him face his fear if he is not ready.
- Be emotionally available for your little one, especially during bedtime. Support your child in times of difficulty. This will make him feel safer.
- Face fears together. He might feel a lot calmer if you face the situation together. For example, if he is scared of going down the stairs, grab his hand, sit next to each other, and go down the stairs one step at a time. With your love and support he’ll feel he can conquer more stairs each time. Eventually he’ll feel ready to go down the stairs by himself.
Providing a safe environment for your little one to explore will foster his independence, self-care, and emotional intelligence skills while keeping a curious mind!
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Reference: The Cliff Study