Childhood Fears: 4 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dentist

Childhood Fears 4 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dentist

Guest Blogger, Kara Masterson

Many children are scared of the dentist. It is a common issue that you should try to help your kid overcome. The following are four tips that might help you and your children.

Starts with You

One of the first things you have to remember is that dental anxiety affects more than just kids. Children are really good at picking up any anxiety coming from parents, so it is vital that you deal with your own anxiety first. You can talk to your dentist beforehand, or have your child visit the dentist with a family member who does not fear the dentist to avoid passing on this fear to your kid.

A Peaceful Scent

Some people may not love the scent of lavender, but it could work wonders for your child. It seems that the natural scent of lavender induces a relaxing feeling within the mind. This has been shown to be powerful enough to reduce some of the symptoms associated with dental anxiety. You can make your own lavender fragrance using an essential oil, or purchase one through an online vendor. Make sure that it is natural lavender to ensure these effects.

Meet and Greet

Next thing you want to try is to have your child meet your dentist ahead of time. Talk to your dentist beforehand to make sure that he or she is aware of your child’s anxiety. A dentist like A-Dental Center or someone similar will likely go over some of the procedures and help your child become familiar with the dentist’s office. One of the reasons some children feel anxious is because they are in unfamiliar territory, which is why this type of meeting is helpful at times.

Bring a Distraction

Sometimes, the best way to deal with the particular problem is to bring a distraction, or find a way to help your child distract him or herself during the visit. You can do this by bringing your child’s favorite toy along or giving your kid a smart device to entertain him or herself. You can also try to train your child to imagine a happy place, which should help him or her deal with scary things a little better.

Hopefully, some of these tips help your kid overcome his or her fear. Keep in mind that fears are not always cured but rather dealt with, so do not expect miracles. Make sure to work with your dentist because he or she will likely know a thing or two about dental anxiety.

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7 Tips to Help Your Child at the Dentist 

Dental Checkup

How to Help Kids Overcome Water Trauma

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Guest Blogger, Lizzy Bullock

In ten years of teaching swimming lessons, I’ve worked with students all across the fear spectrum. Though some students jump in the pool without hesitation, others cry at the thought of getting in the water and face episodes of anxiety when asked to perform new skills. This overwhelming dread creates a psychological barrier for kids learning to swim, but overcoming their fears is a necessary prerequisite to swimming lessons. A survey by the USA Swimming Foundation concluded that one of the most significant setbacks for children learning to swim is “fear of injury or drowning”. If your child panics at the thought of going to swim class, try these tips for working through their anxiety.

Why is My Kid So Scared?

A traumatic pool experience can be devastating for a child’s psyche. Falling in unexpectedly, being pushed or thrown in, or even hearing about the near-death experience of another person can cause emotional stress for a child. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) notes that post-traumatic stress can last months or years. As PTSD symptoms begin to emerge, your child will likely experience difficulty in learning to swim. Jeff Krieger, director of Strategies for Overcoming Aquatic Phobias (SOAP), quantifies the symptoms of aquaphobia as “[causing] increased heart rate, excessive sweating and dry mouth, trembling, nausea, fainting, severe headaches, [and] difficulty in breathing”. Beyond these, I’ve seen children sob to the point of throwing up, cling to me with their fingernails deeply entrenched in my arms, and even lose control of their bowels. There’s no shame in recognizing your child’s fears. It’s the first step to helping kids conquer anxiety and learn to swim successfully.

Talk About It

After a child experiences a traumatic event, AACAP recommends addressing the problem as soon as possible. Try to emphasize feelings of safety and support. Another tactic advocated by Krieger is to ask the child to talk, draw, or write about the situation. Ignoring the incident or avoiding conversation about it only serves to remind the child that it was a scary event that shouldn’t be relived.

I have had students who fell into the pool and had to be rescued. Though they all experienced some level of post-traumatic stress, kids who spoke openly about the experience with their parents seemed to have a better handle on their fears while those who lacked understanding of the event weren’t able to address their emotions as easily. Make a point of opening conversation about their experience and allow them to ask questions and express feelings about their trauma, rather than downplaying the experience or pretending like nothing ever happened.

Don’t Force It

A scared child is already facing enough emotional hardship. They don’t need to see, hear or feel your disappointment or frustration. They need you to remain steadily supportive and encouraging. When they push past a boundary or try a new skill during lessons, give them verbal praise, applaud for them and offer physical comfort when they get out. In my experience, children who receive positive reinforcement will strive harder, even if they’re scared. Children who feel like they are disappointing you will shut down and stop trying. Worse yet, if your child feels forced to participate in activities that scare them, their fears may deepen and trust in you may be questioned.

How Do I Know if Their Fear is Real?

When your child reacts to lessons with crying or screaming, try moving out of sight during their lesson. If they calm down and begin to work with the instructor, odds are they were crying to get their way. If their distress remains steady or increases, your child probably has a real fear of the water. Keep in mind there won’t be an immediate change of heart. Give your child at least 10 minutes alone with the instructor before your return to the deck. A conversation with your instructor will also help to determine if the fear is authentic or unfounded.

Remember, there is a difference between true fear of water and understanding the reality of water’s danger. It’s okay to talk to your kids about drowning. In fact, they’re better off knowing that it could happen. Students who know the consequences of getting into the pool without knowing how to swim are cautious, not terrified. But, children who suffer from a true phobia need steady support from Mom and Dad if you expect them to overcome their anxiety.

Author Bio: Lizzy Bullock is a Red Cross certified swimming instructor (WSI) with a decade of experience helping children overcome fear and swim independently. Lizzy currently works as a swimming instructor and staff writer for AquaGear, a swim school and online swim shop.

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Release Those Fears to Worry Dolls

Worry Eaters: Spotlight and Giveaway

Children and adults have everyday worries, but sometimes the worry can be so large that it takes control of your life. As a child life specialist, my role is to help families cope with life’s challenges through therapeutic interventions. By providing an activity to express emotions and feel validation, families will be able to cope in a healthier way.

I’m thrilled to feature the Worry Eaters today and share how they can help kids at home, school or in the hospital.

Worry Eaters

How Does It Work:

It’s as simple as write or draw your worries, feed them to your Worry Eater, zip up the mouth and let your Worry Eater carry your burdens for a bit.  Because we all have worries and they are a normal part of life, the Worry Eaters are valuable to all ages.  For adults it allows them to get their trouble “off their shoulders” for a time, and for kids, it is a safe way to express what is worrying them and provides their parents a tool to open conversation about their worries and how to deal with them.

Worry Eater in Action:

Gavin, my 6-year-old had the opportunity to share his worries with Flamm, the Worry Eater. He starts first grade this week and has been quite vocal about the new transition, “I hate school” or “I’m not going” are just a few things he has said. The typical response is to rescue his fears with statements of, “You are going to have so much fun” or “Don’t worry, you will meet new friends in this class”. But that isn’t helping him feel validated or offering a way for him to take control of these feelings.

So, I introduced Flamm to him and explained that he could draw or write any worry or fear that he may have and let Flamm deal with it. He openly said that he was worried about “having too much homework”. Flamm helped him draw the picture of two kids sitting at a table doing their homework. Then on his own he crumbled it up and shoved it in Flamm’s mouth.

The activity was a great way for him to feel safe expressing his feelings and offering insight for me to strategize a better homework routine when school begins.

Worry Eaters

About the Creator:

Producer, inventor, animator, and director, Gerhard Hahn has spent the last 35 years creating and producing feature films and television series in Germany with his company, Hahn Film. In 2008 Gerd Hahn had a terrible night. A client hadn’t paid a major contract, putting his family, film company and all its employees’ futures in jeopardy. At 4 a.m. Gerhard had an ah-hah! moment. Whether big or small, we all have problems and worries from time to time, young and old alike.

The next morning Gerhard called his designers and laid out his plans for a cuddly plush character where worries could be safely articulated and tucked away. The plush had to have a tough-looking exterior so that children would be assured that their worries couldn’t escape, yet it had to be charming enough to snuggle with at bedtime. The new creation also needed a mechanism for “consuming” the worries of its owner. The now infamous sideways zipper “mouth” accomplished all of these goals and gave this new product line a unique angle. The Sorgenfresser (German for Worry Eater) was born!

Copy of Worry-3

Where to Purchase Worry Eaters:

The Haywire Group became the exclusive North American distributor for Worry Eaters this year and they became available to U.S. and Canadian consumers in June 2015. The Worry Eaters can be purchased in neighborhood toy stores or online. The Worry Eaters come in two sizes, large for $22.99 and small for $15.99.

Therapists, counselors and child life specialists get a 20% discount on an online order.  Just email social@haywiregroup.com with your name, professional practice, address and email and we will send back the code.

Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Google+

Worry Eaters Giveaway

Get a chance to win your own Worry Eater!

Choose one or more ways to enter:

1. Sign up for email notifications at ChildLifeMommy.com and leave a comment below.

2. Facebook: Follow Child Life Mommy, leave a comment and tag a friend on the post.

3. Facebook: Follow Haywire Group and leave a comment about the #ChildLifeGiveaway

4. Twitter: Follow, Like and RT the post to @ChildLifeMommy and @HaywireGroup

5. Instagram: Follow @ChildLifeMommy, Like and Tag a friend in the post.

Good Luck! Winner will be chosen 9/2/15

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