Children's Fears: Simply Spooked or Serious Phobia?

All kids get spooked, but did you know that as many as a quarter may suffer from a more serious disorder? What's normal -- and when do you need help? (9 Photos)

Gail Saltz on Oct 18, 2010 at 4:51PM

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Children's Fears: Simply Spooked or Serious Phobia?

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Scary Subject: The Dark

Many a child dreads what might be awaiting them in the dark: goblins, ghosts, all manner of monsters... Though imaginary, these can be truly frightening foes.

How you can help: To begin, never minimize a fear, since doing so will only inflame a child’s feelings, re-traumatizing them to intensify the situation. Instead, consider buying your child a nightlight to alleviate their in-the-dark anxiety. Having a detailed conversation about what is specifically scaring them, personally inspecting scary territories in a protective, positive way, then reassuring safety can all help kids feel more at ease.

When to consult a professional: Most children shed this fear by early adolescence. However, if you notice that fear of darkness is negatively affecting your child’s life -- preventing them from having sleepovers or prompting them to routinely keep you up at night -- then you should seek the help of a professional.

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