Real Life Solutions: Childhood Fears

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My 4-year-old daughter is very afraid of monsters. She is terrified at bedtime and wants me to stay in the room until she falls asleep. She holds my hand and sometimes cries. Is this normal or should I be concerned that fear is getting the best of her?

A: Not to worry. It is common for children to have specific fears as they grow and develop. And those fears change with age. So, for example, children ages 4 to 6 do have fears about things that are not real like monsters and ghosts. Your daughter is in that age group so her fear is quite normal. Older children (ages 7 to 12) have fears more related to real circumstances that they may have experienced, such as being frightened by an animal that tried to attack.

Typically children grow out of their fears. The most important thing is to validate her fear. Then, try lots of reassurance and a night-light and see if this helps calm her down. A consistent bedtime routine may also help, one that allows her to quiet down and spend time with you. This is also a good opportunity to teach her a Bible verse about fear and pray with her. Pay attention to her level of fear and decide if she is really anxious or simply wants your presence at night. Even if she is anxious, it is part of normal development at this age.

However, if you notice her fear worsening over time, you may want to consider talking to your pediatrician. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common childhood disorders and can develop when fears persist. Anxiety usually appears as sleep difficulties or physical symptoms like stomachaches. The key here is to know the difference between normal developmental fears and anxiety.

What is your child afraid of? How have you helped your child overcome her fears?