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Talking with Parents About Uncommon Fears
Authors: Giselle Goetze with Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE

Sometimes parents will ask you about children’s fears that are not common. The parents may be concerned because their child is afraid of certain things while other children are not. Usually parents notice their children’s fears, but due to family changes or problems that may have upset both the parents and the children, they may not. There may be so much going on that the parent has not noticed the child’s fears. You can help them to be more aware of their child’s feelings, and to think of ways to help their child cope. This is the first step in helping parents work with their children. You also can help them figure out if they need to ask for more help for their child.

Often there is a reason why children have unusual fears. Something might be going on in their life that is making them scared. One example is a child who is scared of doctors after he was very sick and spent time in the hospital. Hospitals may become scary when he remembers how sick he was. A 6-year-old child might be scared again of leaving his mom. This is not common for children that age, but maybe he watched his dad pack up and move out last weekend. Now he wonders if mom will leave him too. Moving to a new house may also be scary for children. Also, since children can be observant, they might be noticing that the parent is feeling stress, which makes them stressed.

Sometimes just talking with the parents about their children’s fears will help. A meeting with you may help the parents understand why the child has these fears, and what they can do about them. You can also give them ideas.

Sometimes you and the parents cannot learn why their children are afraid. And, some fears don’t get better. Some will not go away even when you and the parent are working together to help the child. When you talk with the parents about these kinds of fears, set apart some time to sit down and talk. Talk about what you have noticed in the child. Suggest that you both write down every time the child is really scared. Write down when he got scared and what he was doing when he got scared. This information can help you both begin to understand the child’s fears. Suggest to the parents that you both do this for a few weeks. After those weeks, meet again to look at what you wrote down about when the child was scared. Finding patterns in the behavior might help give you ideas about how to help the child.

Some children need more help than you and their parents can give them. You both may run out of ideas to help their child. You may want to suggest they talk to someone who knows more about children’s fears. There are resources in the community that could help you. You can work with the family to find connections for them. Some good places to start are the family doctor, school counselor, clergy or a community mental health clinic. Asking for help may be the best way to help the child.

Go to:    Books about fears for children

For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at

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