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Fears originate in the child in various ways. Some can be acquired, for example, if the child has been scared by a dog and later shows fear of similar dogs, all dogs or even some other small animal of the same size. Unfortunately, it is not always possible for parents or teachers and psychologists to trace the characteristics of the original situation in which that fear was contracted.
Other fears can be produced by things with which the child has little or no contact such as snakes, rats or mice, and nobody knows why, but the truth is that all of them inspire fear, perhaps due to some ancestral memory, transmitted by heredity, of which our minds are still carriers.
But it could also happen that an object becomes a symbol of something that the child truly fears. One little girl, for example, was afraid of being in rooms with beamed ceilings. And it is that several facts coincided in the elaboration of this fear: at the same time, the girl had a tool, they furnished her attic (with a beamed ceiling) and there they transferred her; Furthermore, in those days, a neighbor visited the house who commented that one of the ceiling beams had been broken in her house.
In any case, whatever their causes, children's fears can be grouped into two classes: common fears (the same for all children, according to their ages) and unusual fears. If the rare, unusual fear becomes very intense, it is sometimes called a phobia. But the distinction between a very intense fear and a phobia is not very well defined.
The list that we offer below lists the most frequent fears in children and the approximate age at which they appear.
Less than five months: Excessive or unexpected stimulation; for example, a very loud sound or feeling that the body is left without support.
Six to twenty-three months: The strangers; being separated from parents; certain new stimuli, such as masks; the toilet bowl.
From two to five years: Dogs and other animals; Darkness; imaginary beings; death; thieves; to be alone.
Six to twelve years: Animals such as snakes, rats and mice, insects, toads and lizards. Natural disasters: lightning and thunder, storms, fires, cyclones and tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and earthquakes. Physical harm: seeing someone hurt or seeing themselves hurt; receive injections; see someone in the family dying; have an operation; doctors and dentists. Psychosocial fears: being seen naked; be in the dark; the devil; that they are going to be locked up or confined; see faces in the windows; be kidnapped; ghosts; make a mistake.
Thirteen to eighteen years old: Some of the childhood fears already mentioned, plus the fear of the macabre.
Most of these fears disappear in a short time, two or three years, without the need for the child to receive any special treatment, although fears that begin at a later age tend to be more persistent. These fears do not indicate future emotional problems, especially if the fear is not accompanied by any parallel, emotional or behavioral symptoms.
During early childhood, many newborns will cry after a very loud noise or loss of support for their body.
Equally common are fears of separation from parents and the closeness of strangers, which typically begin between six and nine months, reach their greatest intensity around eighteen months, and usually disappear by the age of twenty-four, or two years old. age. Children who are already walking are afraid of masks, especially if they are worn by strangers, in unfamiliar places; some also charge fear of the toilet bowl.
Fears are very common in preschool children. On average, every child this age has three fears. The fear of dogs and animals is typical of the three years; the fear of the dark of the four or the five, and the fear of imaginary creatures appears later.
After approximately six years of age, fears are less frequent. One study showed that 60% of school age children had no fear, but a few children had up to seven kinds of fear. Adolescents have less than children. Their fears include some they had from childhood and also fear of isolation and other social circumstances. In general, parents reported that girls are more fearful than boys. In most cases, the parents considered all these fears normal, and did not think they required special treatment. However, sometimes some of these fears become very intense. Parents of overly fearful girls reported that the things that caused fear the most
These fears are not related to any particular age; they are produced by some object or specific situation and can be very intense and even paralyzing.
Among these fears are the fear of heights, closed spaces, open spaces, and a great variety of concrete objects, such as the fear of ceiling beams to which we refer.
One of the most common fears in children is school phobia. Most children are eager to go to school, but when the moment actually arrives, panic takes over: they cry, vomit, and display other emotional reactions.
Generally, however, school phobias seem to be of a different kind of fear. Often times, it is not so much the fear of going to school as of being separated from the parents, some of whom agree to allow the child to stay at home. The problem can be successfully treated and will be most effective if started before the age of eleven.
These fears require treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist, and generally go through the following phases:
1) Develop a relationship of friendship and trust between the psychologist and the child.
2) Determine the objects and circumstances that cause fear, many of which are complex and not very obvious.
3) Employ some means of desensitization, which includes various techniques, depending on the variety of fear, the specific circumstances and the personality of the psychologist.
4) Finally, expose the child, gradually, to the object or circumstance that produces that fear.
The results of a treatment are positive, especially if it is started at an early age, before the age of ten or twelve.
Although most childhood fears disappear as children grow, why let them face real suffering alone that we have been able to avoid? In passing, we teach them to face the inevitable difficult situations in life.