Fear is a feeling every child has from
time-to-time. Normal fears can be very strong and make it hard for your child
to handle the give-and-take of his days and weeks. Still, these fears do not
keep him from doing the kinds of things most children do. At the rough points,
a little understanding from you and a good pep talk are enough to get him to
get on with getting on.
Two types of fear are very serious, though. The
first is fear of separating from home and important adults. The second is less
specific. It ranges from being afraid of some things and situations to being
afraid most of the time.
Fear of separating is often seen as a fear of
going to school but comes up sometimes as a fear of being alone or of being
left. For example, it may look like your child is afraid of going to school.
There may be a good reason to be afraid of something at school; but be cautious
about coming to the conclusion the problem is at school. Usually, school is not
something children have any good reason to fear. The truth likely is he does
not want to be away from home and fears the separation. Calmly but firmly
insist he goes to school. Take him if that is the only way to get him to go. If
this does not work, get professional help for him. If he gets quick,
specialized help, three or four weeks of behavior therapy usually correct the
Once in a while, children develop extreme and
very puzzling fears. What start out as normal fears get so strong they keep
your child from doing normal kinds of things. Perhaps your child may start
being afraid of things that are not real. He might fear odd things like becoming
invisible, turning into a horse, being killed by rays from outer space, or
something else just as weird. These fears are likely signs of mental illness
and need assessed by a children’s mental health specialist. Note strange or
unusual behavior may be related to drug or other substance abuse. Just be sure
to stay open to this possibility. The children’s mental health specialist can
help evaluate this possibility as part of the more general assessment.