Written by Dr. Helen Andrews. It is common for the younger child to fear monsters in the dark and these fears usually pass without cause for concern. The emotion of fear is valuable from an evolutionary perspective. It helps to keep us away from danger and increases our chances of survival. Of course, it is not a pleasant sensation – it wouldn’t be effective if it was. It is part of normal development for most children to have fears at some point. It is common for the younger child to fear monsters in the dark, and for slightly older children to become preoccupied with death and dying. These fears usually pass without cause for concern, with sensitive parenting and time. Also, most of us are more relaxed when things are familiar and predictable. So changes to a child’s life can also trigger anxieties. Whether this is starting school, a parent returning to work or simply a change to their bedroom. However, some children seem to fear a whole range of situations, or display quite extreme reactions to certain situations. This could be for a number of reasons:
- Some children seem to have a more anxious temperament. Their anxiety is evident from an early age and becomes part of their personality - perhaps they are similar to other family members in this way.
- Some children may have underlying developmental conditions, such as Autism, that may make them more prone to experience anxiety, particularly in social situations.
- Others may have experienced a traumatic event that has sensitised them, or those around them, to possible danger.
- But most fears and anxieties are actually picked up from important people around the child.