I can remember the scream as if it is a movie that plays in my memory. The piercing shrill that filled our tiny New York City apartment as my son recalled an image that startled him from a Minecraft YouTube video he had watched earlier in the day. No matter how much you try to protect your child, you never know what will be that “thing” in the world that turns into a huge fear for them. We rushed to his side, consoled him until he finally fell asleep, but this turned out to be much more than a one-time occurrence.
Days turned to weeks, weeks into months, and then finally my husband and I realized that an entire summer had passed us by dealing with our son’s fear each night. He would remind us as soon as it was time for the lights to go off that “every time I close my eyes, I can see him.” Such a scary thing to witness as a parent whenever you feel helpless in the matter.
Anxiety is a word that is used quite often in adulthood, but what happens when it’s a child dealing with it? Many times it’s brushed off as fear, leaving parents questioning: When is fear just fear, or time to talk to a doctor?
First and foremost, every experience is different, which can either be consoling or nerve-wracking. Not to mention it’s also a very frustrating experience as a parent. There are so many times where I just wanted to grab my son and tell him to snap out of it, because he was safe and cared for, but that wouldn’t have helped the situation anymore. I’m not a doctor, just a concerned mama, so here’s what we did whenever we noticed that this fear was getting out of hand.
Talk about it.
Yes. Talk about the problem. Let them understand that you understand their fear and try to figure out a plan of action to work through it together. Let your kiddo know that you are on their side, that you’re not angry with them, but that sometimes in life we need to face our fears to overcome them. There is a huge learning experience here for the whole family.
In our situation, we obviously limited his time watching YouTube and needed to approve what he was watching. Since every fear is different, you need to set boundaries that work for your specific situation.
Recognize when the fear is affecting other areas of their daily life.
For us, it was only happening at night, whenever the sun went down — so it wasn’t seeping over into daily activities. But, for a period of time, it came to be something that we expected to happen every night, and we had to go through a process to help our son to sleep every night. This was the alarming part to us, and the key indicator in looking at this fear in a bigger way.
Set a designated amount of time to wait it out.
My husband and I set aside a period of time that we thought made sense for us to wait it out before seeking the help of a therapist. We wanted to make the situation as stress-free as possible for all of us, but were very open to the idea of seeking outside help if need be. If your “wait out date” comes and goes and the fear is still very prominent, get a recommendation from your child’s doctor for someone that will help your family get back on track.
The school year has started, yielding earlier mornings and bedtimes, increased activities, and hours of homework — and Branden has gotten back to a normal schedule. This doesn’t mean that we don’t hear about this fear from time to time, but it has subsided on its own and run its course.
This post first appeared on Ravishly.
Also from Ravishly: 6 Things Your Kids Need To Hear You Say • Things I Said I Would Never Do (And Then Did) • The Highs And Lows Of Parenting In The Digital Age