You may have heard me say before, how our mind takes in the surrounding environment through our senses and what our mind makes of what it hears, sees, feels, senses, smells and tastes. Our mind is amazing and none more so than our own survival kit, the limbic brain!
This part of the brain consists of the Hippocampus the Amygdala, and the Hypothalamus. The Amygdala assigns emotions to all events we experience and the Hippocampus stores these events (memories). This incredible process means we don’t have to relearn what is safe, what is exciting, what is fun and importantly what is risky, dangerous or potentially fatal.
Your child’s mind is primed for fear!
Because the mind of a child under the age of 7 processes the world in terms of black and white thinking (it is or it isn’t) the world is a very scary place. No reasoning nor rationalization, just a very simple “it’s scary or it’s not scary”. Without the ability to think in wider terms everything is a potential risk and your child may well label so many things as scary or frightening without you realising it!
What your child experiences and labels as scary or frightening impacts on their behaviour, confidence and self esteem.
Many of the the children who come to me for help to stop meltdowns, improve their confidence and improve their emotional well being have many fears and some of those fears are brought to their mind through unnecessary exposure to news and stories. Many children tell me they are worried about World War 3 breaking out or a terrorist attack may happen or that someone will break into their house.
If your child wasn’t aware of the terrorist attack in London, of the burglaries that have happened over the region or of a family crisis they wouldn’t worry and they wouldn’t hold a fear. The fears that grow in the undeveloped mind are often unrealistic, exaggerated, exacerbated and unfounded but in the child’s mind the fears are real and intense.
My Top Tips to help you help your child
- Never share your problems with your child.
- Don’t leave your TV or radio on all day. Programs seemingly harmless are broadcast during daytime hours such ‘neighbour hood blues’, ‘break in Britain’ and local news can all cause fear in your child.
- Play down the fear factor if your child talks about something she/he has heard from someone else. Always validate your child’s concerns and then reassure your child.
- Help you child understand that it is ok to feel fear or worry and help them release the fear or worry. Let your child know that sometimes feeling worried or concerned or scare is ok. For example, “its ok to feel scared, I understand. When I was your age I used to be really scared of the cybermen on Dr Who. But it’s ok, I am here for you and will make sure you are safe and the men on the TV won’t come here because it’s only on TV”.
- Monitor what your child watches on TV or listens to and avoid program adverts for future programs. They will be not suitable for their undeveloped minds. At the time of writing this blog I am watching TV Ads stating “This year, evil is closer than ever!” Serial killer season!” It’s just gone 8am and the advert is really scary, even for adults and much too frightening for children.
- Don’t dismiss or criticize their fears. Always validate first before reassuring. Do not say things like ” don’t be silly, it’s not real”
- The nighttime is the scariest time of the day so make it feel safe for your child.
- Don’t share or show your fears. A parent is the ultimate point for safety, reassurance and comfort for a child. If you are fearful, worried or scared and your child senses this your, child will become really scared.
- Monitor what your child sees on social media.
- Always pay attention to the rating on DVD’s Blue Ray discs, films on TV and at the cinema. Even if you don’t think it is scary, your child’s 10 year mind will believe otherwise.
Our subconscious mind does NOT know the difference between a real event and an imagined event (even when we are adults!) so it processes a scary event as a risk whether you dream it, see it, read it or watch on a movie. Think about when you have had a nightmare. Your mind believes it is really happening and your body reacts accordingly. So my best piece of advice is to keep your child’s mind unaware of scary and frightening images, movies and news wherever possible and until it’s pertinent for them to do so.