How to Help Kids Face Their Fears with Play

from the hand in hand blog(1)


Halloween might be scare season, but kids get scared even by everyday experiences. The teacher who gives a stern look could mean a child gets anxious about going to school. A trip to the doctors office for shots is never nice, but for some kids equals pure terror. Another child in the park calling your son “stupid-face” might mean he refuses to go in the future.

Most times it’s hard for us parents to know what exactly has prompted a fear. Instead, we see the outcome of it in our children’s behaviors. Refusing to go to places associated with fear is an obvious indication, but if your child is acting off-track in other ways, being aggressive, whining over small things, calling you “stupid-face”, all of aface-fears-with-play-1 sudden, then his connection is down and fear could be the cause.

Play Works Like a Charm

In tense times, turn to play to help your child face fears. It might seem counter-intuitive, or like you are making light of a child’s fears, but laughter is a great way to shake off stress. When you introduce giggles into a tense setting you diffuse the bad feelings, like this mom did with her child, who was scared of hair-washing:

Play Overcomes Fear of Hairwashing

Or in this situation, where a mom’s bubble games helps her son confront a fear of putting his head under water:

Facing Water Fears Through Play

Hand in Hand’s Playlistening tool puts the child in the lead, so that they direct play. Often play turns to role play. Play is a safe way for children to explore the fears lurking their minds, a way to bring them out into the open before they fester.

Here’s how one boy played away stress after a visit to the doctor’s office:

Healing Hurts From Vaccinations 

Other times, a worried parent can set up a situation to introduce play into a fearful situation, and follow where their child takes the action. Giving them power during these sessions ups confidence.

This is how a son attempted to tackle his doubts around teethbrushing:

Special Time Helps with Teethbrushing

This mom takes on a slew of different characters in a bid to help her seven-year-old’s increasing fears over illness and suffering.

Play Away Tense Situations

How to Help Your Child Overcome Fear Using Play

The next time your child is acting out of sorts, go forth, and play! Playlistening can be used in almost every challenging situation, from  sibling issues, to picky eating to fear of the potty. And if you find ghosts and ghouls have them worried, now’s the time to throw open the dress-ups and let them have fun around these scary characters.

The best news is that fun, play and laughter allows every player to let off steam. So play is just as therapeutic for parents worried about their children’s fears!

 Get ideas on how to be a more Playful Parent here, or for many more examples, buy the book Listen, Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges

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