Common Early Childhood Fears

Children are still learning about the world around them and oftentimes their strong instincts can lead them to develop a fear of something that seems rather ordinary to adults. Children with anxiety often have a difficult time overcoming their fears. Let’s take a look at some fears that are common during early childhood:

Animals – It is very common for young children to be afraid of animals; after all, they are rather unpredictable to a small child. The fear of animals typically emerges around three years of age and is most likely to affect children who do not have pets at home.

Dark/Sleeping Alone – The fear of the dark typically appears when a child’s imagination becomes more active and vivid (around age 2 or 3), but their ability to discern fantasy from reality is not yet developed. Many experts feel that television plays a large part in the development of a child’s fear of the dark by exposing young children to images that they do not understand. Television use should be limited and closely monitored, especially before bedtime.

Monsters – The fear of monsters often goes hand-in-hand with fear of the dark. Some psychologists feel that monsters are unconsciously created by children as a way to project feelings of anger or hostility that they are experiencing inside of themselves or that they have witnessed by others around them. 

Death – The fear of death is so basic and primal that it is the root of almost all other fears and phobias. Fear of death typically emerges around age 4 or 5, when a child can comprehend that they are not invincible and death does indeed happen to all living things.

Resisting a child’s fears or attempting to “talk them out of it” is likely to make the situation worse. Reading positive books to your child that deal with the topic they are afraid of (such as a book about nice dogs) will help normalize the subject of their fear. Remember to validate your child’s emotions, listen intently to their concerns, and meet your child with understanding. When a child feels secure and knows that their feelings are justified and understood, and when their knowledge surrounding the perceived threat increases, they will often outgrow their fear.