Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How can I get my son to not be afraid to go in the basement?

When I was a child, my grandmother had an unfinished basement that was used for storage and laundry.  I spent hours down there because this laundry was one of those old fashioned wringer-washer where the clothes had to be put manually thorough the cycles.  My grandmother had a swing down there for us, and I loved that area of the basement.  However, I was terrified to go more than 5 feet away from the laundry and the swing.  It was scary down there: boxes, old furniture and lots of other stuff.  Looking back, that fear seems ridiculous to me, but as a 8 year old it felt valid. 

Children’s fears are real.  They may seem silly to us big people but these fears are often all children can think about.  When children express a fear to a parent, most of us would try to explain that there is nothing to be scared of, ignore the fear or make them go in the room to show him there is nothing to be afraid of.  

Instead I suggest you sit your child down and validate his fear.  He cannot be “talked” out of it.  What you can do is teach your child that you will not ignore the fear but will do your best to understand it.  “I see that you are afraid of going in that room.  I know the room is dark and there are lots of boxes in it. It can seem scary to go in places that you are not used to.  Maybe you are afraid something is in there.  What do you think might happen if you go in there?”  Try to not put ideas in his head that were not there, but think about what the room might look like from your child’s perspective.  Are there bugs in there, did he watch something on TV that might have contributed to the fear? 

Though telling your child there is nothing to be afraid of might come from a place of love, he might understand it to mean there is something wrong with him.  Be patient and understanding.   Let your child know that you will go with him into the place when HE is ready. 

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