Lots of children suffer from irrational fears and anxieties, which can be difficult for foster parents to cope with. Phobias are intense and irrational fears that can have a profound impact on a child’s daily life. Here are some of the most common childhood phobias, their causes, and how foster carers can support foster children in overcoming these fears.
Fear of the Dark (Nyctophobia)
One of the most common childhood phobias is the fear of the dark. Many children don’t like it when their bedroom light is switched off, leading to anxiety, trouble sleeping, and nightmares. This fear often stems from a child’s vivid imagination and the inability to see what might be lurking in the shadows.
Bedtime routines and a nightlight can help anxious foster children settle. Gradually exposing children to darkness in a controlled manner can also desensitize them to their fear. If this is a short term foster care placement, check what strategies have been tried previously and build on them while the foster child is in your care.
Fear of Animals (Zoophobia)
Whether it’s dogs, cats, spiders, or snakes, some foster children may become overwhelmed with anxiety and panic when they meet animals they don’t like. This fear often arises from a negative experience, such as being bitten by a dog, or a lack of exposure to animals.
Try introducing children to animals in a controlled and supportive environment. Encouraging positive interactions, such as getting to know a friendly dog, visiting petting zoos, or bringing home a small, friendly pet. If you take things slowly, your foster child will build confidence and overcome their fear.
Fear of Dentists (Dentophobia)
Dentophobia can persist into adulthood if not addressed. The sights, sounds, and perceived pain associated with dental visits can trigger intense anxiety in children. This fear often stems from previous traumatic experiences but may also be triggered by other people telling them a visit to the dentist is something to be anxious about.
Dental checkups are very important in childhood. Try and schedule dentist checkups regularly, but if your foster child is extremely anxious or has behavioural difficulties while at the dentist, it may be necessary to book an appointment with a special needs dentist. This is something your foster agency can advise you about.
Fear of Heights (Acrophobia)
Acrophobia, or the fear of heights can limit a child’s experiences and opportunities for exploration.
Foster carers can support children with acrophobia by gradually exposing them to heights in a controlled and supportive manner. Climbing tall buildings and going on age-appropriate amusement park rides can help children build confidence and overcome their fear.
Fear of Loud Noises (Phonophobia)
Sudden loud sounds, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or even crowded environments, can trigger a strong fear response. Foster children on the autism spectrum may be especially oversensitive to loud noises.
To help children cope with phonophobia, it is crucial to create a safe and calm environment. Using noise-cancelling headphones, offering reassurance, and gradually exposing children to louder sounds can assist in desensitizing them and reducing their fear.
By creating a safe and supportive environment, gradually exposing children to their fears, and seeking professional help when necessary, foster carers can help children to face and conquer their fears, enabling them to thrive in their daily lives.