“Mommy, I’m scared!” – sounds familiar? Fear is a natural mechanism designed to ensure survival. A child who’s not afraid can easily find himself in dangerous situations. Having said that, some children do get scared too easily, and some of their fears are not necessarily related to reality, but rather to their fantasy world. Every age has its unique developmental characteristics, its own typical fears and appropriate ways of coping with them. Analyzing children’s drawings will enable you to focus optimally on your child’s unique character to tailor effective solutions.
Ages 1-2: Some children will fear mostly strangers and be anxious whenever the parent separates or walks away from them.
Age 3: Fears regarding bodily integrity. Accordingly, some children begin to draw human figures around that age.
Ages 4-5: Fears related to conscience, social norms and even questions of life and death.
Usually, it is the frequency of the fears, as well as the degree in which they take over the child’s normal routine, which indicate referral to counseling.
Case study: A girl with intense fears
The parents of the five year-old girl, who made this drawing, reported that she had always been anxious. Lately, her fears intensified and they would like to know why. Profound analysis of her drawings showed that she suffered from fears of many kinds – sometimes it is certain animals, sometimes she wonders what happens when you die, but mainly she’s afraid of being left alone.
In her drawings she had a tendency to frame her figure. This tendency is one of many which are typical of fearful children. Together with other indicators, this indicator raised our suspicion that the problem is essentially more sensory than strictly emotional. Indeed, an occupational therapy diagnosis showed that she is highly sensitized, hence her intense anxieties.
This diagnosis helped the family avoid prolonged and largely unnecessary emotional therapy. She began receiving sensory treatment in an OT clinic, and her fears began to improve within several months.
- Do not play down your child’s fears. Help him share his emotions and treat them seriously.
- Think together about what will relieve your child’s fear and help him feel more secure.
- Share similar experiences you had as children. Emphasize that this particular fear is familiar to you, but also the fact that you have eventually managed to overcome it.
- Use drawings as a way of coping with fear. For example, you can ask your child to draw the scary monster and then crumple the drawing to “beat” the monster.
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