Childhood Fears

Many children have fears. It is a part of healthy child development. What a child is afraid of often depends on their age or level of development.

You may notice your baby develops a fear of strangers at around eight months old.

Many toddlers cry when their parent or caregiver leaves them at childcare or when you put them to bed. They fear to be away from their parent.

Preschool children have vivid imaginations which are wonderful. However, it may be difficult for them to tell the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. They are concrete thinkers so they believe there may be monsters under the bed.

Young school-aged children 
By this age children often express fear of things that are more reality-based, like a fire or a “bad guy”. They fear getting hurt or their parents getting hurt.

What can you do to help children overcome their fears? 

  • Respect that the fear is real for your child. Never make fun or dismiss the fear.
  • Let babies become familiar with new people. Ask the person to play with the baby at a safe distance. Never force a baby to go with someone.
  • Hold your child or give them your hand, and reassure them that they are safe.
  • Try to anticipate fears. If you are going to another room, let your child know you will be going and talk to them when you are there. Explain to your child that you will come back for them.
  • Help your child by reading books about their fear, telling stories and acting out things to help with their fear.
  • Encourage your child to take, slow deep breathes to help manage the fear they feel.
  • Limit scary things on screens.
  • Be patient. Ask questions and listen to your child.

You may want to speak with your health-care provider if your child’s fears begin to affect their day to day activities.

Services related to this information:

Public Health Nursing offices, Eastern Health

811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555

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Last updated: 2019-08-06