HOW PARENTS CAN HELP THEIR CHILDREN DEAL WITH PHOBIAS

parent anxious childParents can be helpful in elevating some of their children’s phobias by just taking some simple steps and following them with praise and rewards. One of the main factors that keeps anxiety going is avoidance of a phobias feared stimulus. One way you can help your child or young person to challenge this avoidance is to put together a step-by-step plan that gradually exposes them to the thing that they fear. This should not push them into an anxiety-provoking situation – the point is to build
on the success of the last step and help them to grow in confidence each time. For example, for a child who had a phobia of dogs an exposure program might look like this:

Step One – Find an achievable 1st step, for example looking at a photo of a dog

Step Two – When the child is comfortable doing this, perhaps try looking at a toy dog

Step Three – Holding a toy dog

Step Four – Being in the same garden as a very small dog in a carrier

Step Five – Moving closer to the carrier

Step Six – Being in the same garden as a dog on a leash

Step Seven – Moving closer to the dog

Step Eight – Touching the dog for one second, etc.

Each step should be decided in agreement with the child and the parent, and plenty of praise / rewards should be used as the child or young person moves through the ladder. If the child or young person becomes distressed or does not feel they can manage the next step, then make the step smaller. It may take a considerable length of time for them to get to their goal, and everyone is different so patience, time and support are required in bucket loads from the family. You can assess when a child or young person’s anxiety drops by getting them to rate it on a scale of 1-10. When that number drops below 2 in the situation, you will be ready to move on to the next step.

Using praise and reward to get the behaviors you want:

When you see good behavior and brave behavior (where they challenge themselves – even in small ways) remember to give tons of praise. Remember:

  • Sound like you mean it
  • Avoid mixing in criticism (‘that’s great, but it would be better if you…’)
  • Say exactly what you are giving the praise for

Tips for getting the most out of rewards:

Give the reward ASAP after the good or brave behavior

Give loads of praise too

Never take a reward away once it has been earned

Always give rewards AFTER you have got the behavior that you wanted to see

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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