Fear of Thunder, Lightning, and Other Weather Conditions

Storms can be frightening for children and adults alike. A flash of electricity lighting up the night time sky, a rumble of thunder followed by a crashing boom can send shivers up anyone’s back! Some children are more afraid of severe weather conditions than others, but parents need to know how to help any child feel more comfortable in the face of howling winds, noisy storms, torrential downpours and all the other frightening weather events that inevitably occur in our world.

To help your child be more comfortable during severe weather events, consider the following tips:

Make it Fun
Many adults associate storms with fond childhood memories. You can help your child do the same by starting “traditions” of story-telling or game-playing during storms. Since everyone is stuck inside anyway, it’s a great opportunity for family time.  Sipping cocoa, munching munchies, listening to music, cuddling up with a good book or movie – cozy activities can create cozy feelings toward rough weather condition.

If it’s already bedtime and your child is under the covers, you can still help her associate storms with comfort and positive feelings. A young child might appreciate the companionship of a special plush toy (or the real family pet). An older one might enjoy a flashlight and a good book to read under the covers – a special activity reserved for stormy nights. Or, you might help the child imagine that there is a noisy celebration of fireworks outside. Or, you can take turns making up explanations for the noise with your child as a fun and silly game – for instance, you suggest that the sky giants are bowling and your child suggests that the angels are go-carting and you suggest that the clouds are arguing and so on and so forth. Or, you can invite everyone into your bed so they can all fall asleep together. Most storms don’t last very long, so hopefully everyone will soon return to their own beds!

If your child is too frightened and upset to enjoy the fun, consider learning and then treating him or her with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This very simple self-help tapping technique can be used WHILE the child is overwhelmed with panic to help turn off the fight-or-flight response. Learn about EFT online or from one of the many books on the subject, or consult a mental health practitioner who uses and teaches the technique.  EFT can often reduce intense feelings of fear in just a few minutes.

Consider Rescue Remedy and Bach Flower Remedies
Another resource is Rescue Remedy – a harmless, water-based form of vibrational “medicine” that quickly calms agitation and fear. Give your child 4 drops in a small amount of water, encouraging him to sip it every few minutes until he feels better. Rescue Remedy also comes in spray form and can be sprayed directly into the child’s mouth.

The Bach Flower Remedies Mimulus and Rock Rose can be prepared together in one mixing bottle (see instructions on this site and elsewhere online and in books, or consult a Bach Flower Practitioner for assistance). Giving this mixture to the child several times a day for an extended period (i.e. many months) can help prevent the fear of storms from occurring in the future.

Explain the Science
Understanding the science of storms can help reduce the child’s fear. Get the information you need about the cause of severe weather conditions and give it over in an age-appropriate way to your child. Be sure to include information about how to stay safe in a storm.

Teach Self-Soothing Skills
Teach your child simple but effective ways of calming feelings of fear. Self-talk is a good tool for this purpose: teach your child to tell him or herself, “the storm will be over very soon and everything will be back to normal” or “it’s noisy outside but I’m safe here inside.”  You can also teach the child how to calm the fight-or-flight chemistry by breathing very slowly. Your child’s fear is fueled by his or her negative imagination (picturing worst case scenarios). Teach the child to use positive imagination instead (i.e. picturing how nice and fresh everything will look after the storm).

Professional Help
If self-help techniques do not sufficiently help your child through storms, do take him or her to a mental health professional. Fears and phobias produce a lot of unnecessary anguish and suffering – they are usually quickly and easily resolved with a short course of professional treatment.

Fear of Vomiting

Does your child experience extreme anxiety at the mere thought of throwing up?  Does he or she experience adverse reactions, such as intense nausea or panic, when seeing or smelling vomit? Most people don’t enjoy being around vomit, but some adults and children actually experience panic at the thought of vomiting or coming in contact with vomit. If your child reacts in this way, it is possible that he or she is suffering from emetophobia: an extreme and pervasive fear related to vomiting.

Normal vs. Clinical Fear of Vomiting
Emetophobia is an extreme anxiety reaction to vomiting, way beyond the normal queasiness and disgust that people generally feel. The reaction can be so intense that kids can have unmanageable fears regarding illness or nausea because both of these are associated with the possibility of vomiting. In other words, if the child hears that a classmate has the flu, she might begin to obsess and panic about the chances that she herself will fall ill (having been exposed to the sick child in class). The child will worry that if she gets the flu, then she might have to vomit. The thought of the possible illness may keep her awake for nights on end until it seems that she has escaped the illness after all.

Parental reassurance and support does little to comfort the child. In fact, reassurance can actually prolong the panic reaction (see below).  Children with emetophobia may begin to panic even when hearing that someone in the neighborhood has been vomiting. They may fear eating at restaurants or friends’ houses because of the fear of getting food poisoning that may lead to vomiting. Or they may fear visiting people in hospitals because “that’s where sick people are.” They may fear going on school trips because someone may experience travel sickness and end up vomiting. In short, the fear of vomiting can affect a child’s entire life as the child tries valiantly to avoid all instances of vomiting in herself or others.

What Causes Emetophobia?
Like many clinical fears and phobias, fear of vomiting occurs without a known reason. Although some people develop this fear after having an unpleasant gagging experience, most people cannot trace the fear to a bad experience. In fact, if panic of vomiting is triggered through a very bad experience it is most likely a trauma reaction rather than emetophobia (a true phobia). Don’t bother asking your child what she is afraid of because she won’t be able to explain her strong reactions beyond saying she doesn’t like vomit. What she knows is that her heart beats rapidly, she feels nauseous, dizzy and/or overwhelmed and she can’t turn the feelings off.

How can Parents Help?
What can parents do to help a child with a fear of vomiting?

Firstly, it’s important that parents respond with compassion and empathy when children experience anxiety attacks. Clinical phobias are already difficult and debilitating on their own – getting reprimanded and punished for them will just add to the stress. Seeing a parent upset over something that can’t be helped will just shame a child for being ill.

Gradual de-sensitization to vomiting behavior or vomit can do a lot in helping a child with emetophobia. There are different therapeutic interventions that result in desensitization such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Home treatment of emetophobia is not recommended. Instead, take your child to an anxiety disorders clinic (where they treat phobias) or a child psychologist who treats fears and phobias. Treatment is normally brief with long-lasting effects.

Fear of Doctors or Dentists

Some babies, kids and teens have fears of medical professionals. This is highly inconvenient because all people need to see doctors and dentists at least occasionally. Moreover, some people require acute medical or dental attention – being terrified of the helping professional only adds stress to the already intense stress of injury or illness.

If your child has a fear of doctors or dentists, consider the following tips:

Babies are Smarter Than They Look
A baby often figures out rather quickly that the doctor gives – ouch – needles. If your baby develops “attitude” about doctor’s visits, it means that he or she is smart. Even though the doctor smiles and seems so friendly, he or she pokes and prods and pricks during those first-year visits. You can validate your baby’s feelings by saying things like, “I know you don’t like the doctor. It isn’t fun to get that needle!” Even if your baby doesn’t understand your speech, your validation of his or her experience is good practice for the validation that you’ll need to be doing for many years to come. Moreover, the baby can feel your sympathy and understanding even if he doesn’t understand your words. This helps establish a strong parent-child bond that builds trust while also helps to soothe and calm your baby. Once the doctor’s visits become more pleasant, the baby will usually develop a warm relationship with the doctor. In other words, in most cases, the problem will go away by itself within some months or, in more difficult cases, in a couple of years. Just wait it out. Alternatively, it may help a little if you can pair a doctor’s visit with a treat or privilege of some kind. Don’t bribe the child; simply give the child a treat or privilege when you leave the doctor’s office. This can help the child associate the doctor with pleasure and this can reduce his upset, despite the pain.

Persistent Fear Requires Intervention
If your baby doesn’t grow out of the fear of a white coat or the smell of the doctor’s office by toddlerhood, you’ll definitely want to help him along. Young kids can benefit from “bibliotherapy” – the use of picture books to help reduce anxiety. Your local library may have a selection of picture books for young children that focus on what exactly happens at a medical or dental office. Reading such books can help prepare and calm the youngster before a visit for a check-up or treatment. Older children – those beyond the picture-book stage of life – may benefit from specific stress-reduction strategies. If you know some, teach them to your child or teen. If you don’t, one or two visits to a mental health professional may be all that your child needs in order to learn some coping tools for fear. If the child has a true phobia, full treatment can take a number of weeks or even some months. One thing that you might teach a child is how to focus on his breath while the doctor or dentist performs an examination. Tell your child to pay attention to the breath going in and out of his nostrils, or pay attention to his chest rising and falling as he breathes. Alternatively, teach the child to “daydream” effectively – to use visualization to take himself to a safe, fun place while the doctor is performing his examination. A different kind of tool is “mindfulness meditation.” In this technique you teach your child to name his thoughts and feelings and physical sensations as they are occurring during the examination or treatment. For instance, the child might say (silently), “scared, nervous, don’t like this, don’t want to be here, cold, uncomfortable, want to go home, relaxed, sore, sad, upset, mad, happy to be going home now,” and so on, throughout the medical or dental visit. Even though the child is naming negative thoughts and feelings, he will actually feel more in-control and calmer by doing this exercise. Try it yourself first to see how it feels. Another tool that helps many children and teens is EFT – emotional freedom technique. You can learn about this self-help tool online. It is excellent for removing or minimizing feelings of fear.

Try Bach Flower Therapy
On the day of the medical visit, and right beforehand, try giving your child Rescue Remedy. This pre-mixed Bach Flower Remedy is available at health food stores and on-line. Rescue Remedy helps to calm feelings of overwhelming fear and panic and can be taken right before, during and right after a very frightening experience. It comes in liquid (drop 4 drops in water or any other beverage) as well as spray and candy form. In order to help ease the fearful tendency out of the child and thereby prevent on-going fear of medical professionals, use Bach Flowers regularly for some months. Try the remedies Mimulus (for fears) and Rock Rose (for panic). You can speak to a Bach Flower Therapist to get a specially designed formulation for your child or you can look up the remedy descriptions online and select up to 7 remedies to put all together in one dropper bottle. There are online resources to learn how to prepare the remedies for use.

Seek Professional Help
If you’ve tried everything and your child is still afraid of medical or dental professionals, enlist the help of a professional therapist. Do this as soon as possible to make healing easier and to save your child many years of unnecessary pain and distress.

Fear of Bugs

Many children and teens have a fear of bugs. Some kids are afraid of anything “creepy crawly” while others are afraid of specific insects such as spiders or bees and wasps. It is very inconvenient to have a serious fear of bugs because – let’s face it – bugs are everywhere. It will be impossible for a person to completely avoid encountering bugs. Moreover, bugs are particularly likely to show up in places that kids are likely to go, like day camps, sleepover camps, beaches, picnic areas, cottage country and even local parks. In fact, a child with a bug phobia can be miserable when he or she simply has to go outdoors. Those who have fears of spiders or other household bugs don’t feel safe even INSIDE their houses.

If your child has a fear of bugs, consider the following tips:

Your Child Needs Help in Overcoming Fear
It can be very annoying for parents and other family members to have to deal with a child who is afraid of bugs. This child may ruin family outings with his or her terror. Or he or she may make impossible demands in order to be protected from bugs (for example, asking the family to keep all the doors and windows shut on a hot day so that no bug will fly into the house). However, reprimanding a fearful child DOES NOT help! In fact, it hurts the child by showing clear lack of understanding and compassion. Your child has no control over his or her fear. It is something biological – an inborn tendency. Some people have fears and some people just don’t. The good news is that even someone who is born with a fearful tendency can be helped. Sometimes the parent can help the child and sometimes the child will need professional help in order to overcome a debilitating fear. Toddlers and pre-schoolers often outgrow many fears on their own, however older children and teens are unlikely to outgrow their fear. Without your help, they might suffer a lifetime (or until they’re old enough to seek their own help!).

So what can you do to help your child?

Introduce Your Youngster to EFT
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a powerful accupressure-based, self-help tool. Parents can learn it and use it on their young kids and older kids and teens can learn it and use it on themselves. There are also therapists world-wide who have trained in EFT so that they can help their clients with it. This simple technique that involves using one’s own fingers to tap lightly on certain parts of the body, can sometimes completely remove fear of bugs in just one or two sessions. Sometimes, it will take longer – it all depends on the child. There is a great deal of information about EFT on-line and there are books that can be purchased that explain exactly how to do the treatment.

Try Bach Flower Remedies
Whether or not you experiment with EFT, you can offer your youngster Bach Flower Remedies. For fear of bugs, Mimulus and Rock Rose are likely to be helpful. Give your child two drops of each in liquid, four times a day until the fear is no longer present. If your child is going to a bug-filled location, give him or her Rescue Remedy (a special Bach Flower Mixture available in health food stores) to take along. Rescue Remedy may help stop panic attacks and intensely fearful reactions.

Look at a Fear and Phobia Self-Help Manual
There are self-help manuals that use CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) strategies for reducing fears and phobias. You may be able to give such a manual to a teenager to look through. For a younger child, you can work through such a manual together. Professional therapists often use a similar approach for helping people overcome their fears.

Experiment with Desensitization by Watching Bug Videos
Sometimes a child is helped by learning about and seeing bugs in controlled situations. Watching bug-videos on-line is safer than looking at a bug close-up! The child can see the bug up close (on the screen), learn about its habits and lifecyle, and even learn how to protect himself from the bug. There’s plenty of information online about how to treat bug bites and bee stings and just knowing what to do can help reduce some of the fear.

Give Your Child Coping Tools
Teach your child what to do when confronted with a bug. For instance, if the bug is in your house, instruct the child to CALMLY ask someone to help remove it. You want your child to refrain from engaging in hysterical tantrums. If possible, teach your child how to remove the bug him or herself. Don’t do this if your child actually experiences intense panic. However, if the child is afraid of bugs, it can be empowering to know what to do about them in case others aren’t around to provide a rescue. You can also teach your child to say certain calming statements. You can design these with the child so that the child is in agreement that the statements are calming. For instance, upon seeing a worm, a fearful child might be taught to say “It is a worm. It is a tiny, tiny worm. It will not hurt me.” If a frightened child sees a bee in the room, he might say, “It is a bee. It is a tiny bee that wants to get out of the house. It doesn’t want to hurt me.” If a scared child sees a cockroach, he can say, “It is a cockroach. It is an ugly cockroach that is very tiny. It will not hurt me.” Making such statements out loud can help the child feel calmer. Devise action-plans with your child. What do you want the child to do when he or she sees a bug? Talk about this with the child and ask the child to imagine actually taking those steps. Being prepared helps.

Consult a Professional
If these tips do not sufficiently reduce  your child’s fear, do consider arranging a consultation with a mental health professional like a child psychologist.

Fear of Animals

Most children love the zoo, but there are some children who virtually tremble at the sight of animals. In most cases, a child’s fear of animals is naturally outgrown. But there are also cases where fears persist into the teenage and adult years, and even become lifelong phobias.

How can parents help their children manage or overcome fears of animals or fear of a particular animal?

Accept the Child’s Fear and Empathize
It’s important that parents try to see animals from their kids’ eyes. A Labrador puppy may not look intimidating from an adult’s point of view, but the pet can easily be the height of a 2 or 3 year old. A domesticated cat may rarely bare her claws — but kids can still feel fear about how sharp they look.  And farm animals are usually a bit more frightening – just think of a chicken suddenly flying towards you. Let your child know that his or her fear is understandable: “Yes, horses are really big! Even though I’m sure they’re pretty friendly, they certainly look scary, ” or “I see you’re scared of the puppy. That’s O.K. You don’t know him yet so you’re right to be a little wary. Let’s get to know him better and see if we can trust him.”

Show a Calm and Relaxed Disposition among Animals
Young kids often take their cues from the adults around them, so model how to properly approach and pet an animal. Smile and act relaxed. Whatever you do, don’t fool around and pretend that you are being attacked. It may be funny to you, but it’s likely not amusing to your terrified boy or girl.

Visit a Vet, an Animal Shelter or a Pet Store
One way you can lessen a child’s fear of animals is to get them into a setting where interacting with animals is just part of the day. Let them interview your local vet, who may be invited to provide interesting animal trivia that usually gets little kids hooked. You can also take them to an animal shelter or a pet store and explain to them that animals do need a loving home too. If they can see animals as creatures that need care and support just like they do, they might feel a little less intimidated by the little critters.

Consider Self-Help Treatments for Fear and Phobias
If the child is panicky around animals, give him or her Rescue Remedy when visiting zoos or people who have pets. Rescue Remedy is a Bach Flower mixture available in health food stores and online. To help the child eventually get over the fear, you can use other remedies in the Bach system such as Mimulus for phobias and Rock Rose for panic. In this case, give the child these remedies four times daily until he or she no longer expresses fear of animals.

Also, consider teaching your child EFT (emotional freedom technique) – a form of accupressure that can often heal fears and phobias. More information on EFT can be found online and throughout this site.

Aim for Gradual Desensitization
If your child is really upset at the sight of animals, then go slowly and patiently.  For example, bring home some library books about the animal or animals that your child fears. There are beautiful picture books that teach everything there is to know about pets and farm animals, explaining the parts of the animal’s body, the food the animal eats and the way it typically behaves. Next, show some educational films on the same kinds of material – i.e. a film about cats or dogs or horses or zoo animals. Next, take them to a pet store where the animals are contained in locked cages. Eventually, try a small section of a local zoo.  Then, take your child to LOOK AT a petting farm – don’t make the child participate by walking among the animals and actually touching them.  Instead, have the child watch other children having fun with the animals. Eventually, you might be able to assist your child within the petting zoo itself (not on the first visit, but maybe after several such visits). You might be able to bring some goldfish into your home after awhile.  Invite a friend to bring a puppy on a leash to your house and let your child observe the animal without having to be close to it. Only when the child is comfortable and wants to get closer should you help the youngster come near the pet while it is still on the leash. Eventually see if you can help the child to touch the dog while you are holding the animal –  you can hold a puppy in your arms and get tyour child to touch the tail today, the body tomorrow, and who knows, perhaps the head in a few weeks. After the child gets to know the puppy, you might let the animal walk about without the leash and just let the child watch (possibly while sitting in your lap!). Soon, the child will want to walk freely where the dog is and eventually, if all goes well, play happily with the dog like other kids do.

Consider Professional Help
If your child is not responding to your interventions and is suffering from fear of animals that impedes with his or her daily life (i.e. child is afraid to go to school or other places), then consult a child psychologist. Mental health professionals can help people of all ages overcome their fears and live a more relaxed and happy life!

Phobias

Phobias are difficult to understand and many experts concede that they are generally irrational in nature. But they are very real and there are people who suffer such intense phobias that it may severely impede their day-to-day life. When the phobia is so strong that it results in anxiety attacks, the sufferer needs professional assistance.

What is a Phobia?
A phobia is an intense fear of a particular object that leads to (a) avoidance of that object and (b) the experience of intense anxiety in its real or even, imagined presence. The strength of a phobic reaction exists in a range; some are manageable while others are intense enough to be considered considered as a manifestation of clinical anxiety disorders. The latter type of phobia requires the assistance of a mental health professional.

What can Trigger Phobia?
Almost anything can be the object of a phobia. This is because it is not the object of the phobia that defines the condition, but the person’s  reaction to it. What’s considered as harmless by people without phobia can be terrifying to a person with it.

The following are just some of the specific known phobias:

  • Acrophobia – fear of being in high places.
  • Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces
  • Aquaphobia – fear of water
  • Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
  • Astraphobia – fear of thunder, lightning and other weather conditions
  • Aviatophobia – fear of flying
  • Claustrophobia – fear of enclosed and small spaces
  • Gelotophobia – fear of being laughed at
  • Hemophobia – fear of blood
  • Herpetophobia – fear of reptiles, amphibians and other slimy creatures
  • Necrophobia – fear of the dying; fear of the dead
  • Ophidiophobia – fear of snakes

Sometimes phobias are developed from negative experiences with the target of the phobia in the past. For example, a child who had an intense brush in with a large dog can develop a fear of dogs. A person who just survived a natural disaster can develop a fear of lightning and thunder. Someone with a fear of water may be reacting to an experience of drowning as a child. When your coping resources are not enough to deal with a terrifying ordeal the first time around, your mind and body may get conditioned to avoid similar situations again. It’s part of our natural instinct for survival.  Sometimes a person can have a phobia of something that they’ve never had a bad experience with. For instance, many small children have temporary phobias of things like clowns and bugs even though they have never been hurt by either.  Adults can have phobias of heights, needles,  flying or driving over bridges even though they’ve never had any trouble with any of these issues in this lifetime.

How to Deal with Phobias
Phobias are curable mental health conditions. At the moment there are various schools of thought that address phobic reactions, and many of them have a list of successful treatments to their name. Some of the most noteworthy are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approaches a phobic reaction in two ways. In the first one, the irrational thoughts that trigger, maintain or exacerbate an anxiety reaction are addressed. For example, the idea that “I will drown again if I step into a swimming pool,” among aquaphobics can be refuted through persistent therapeutic debate. In the second step, the behavior regarding the object of the fear is addressed. Gradual desensitization, for example, may be used so that the patient can slowly get used to what he or she is avoiding.

Emotional Freedom Technique and other types of “energy psychology” utilize the meridian system to neutralize phobias. The person uses his own fingers to lightly tap on his body at 8 designated points (specific points on the meridian pathways) while thinking of or looking at the phobic stimulus. The tapping somehow reorganizes the neuroal pathways of the brain so that the phobic item is no longer frightening. The father of energy psychology – Dr. Roger Callahan – has written a book entitled “The Five Minute Phobia Cure.” It points to the fact that many people can heal their phobias very quickly using this approach. It is suitable for children as well as adults. Since it is suitable as a self-help tool as well and is easy to use, it is an excellent first intervention with kids.

Another mind-body approach to dealing with phobic reactions is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In this method, eye movements that are typical when a person is having a phobic reaction are carefully returned to normal. The intervention is believed to affect the brain processes that are behind phobic reactions. EMDR requires a skilled therapist.

Bach Flower Therapy can help diminish phobias along with other interventions. The remedies Mimulus and Rock Rose are particularly helpful for phobias. For fear of public speaking, the remedies Cerato and Larch may also be indicated. For phobias that cause intense, uncontrollable upset, the remedy Cherry Plum may help. If someone knows that they will be in a situation that provokes their phobia, then they should take Rescue Remedy – a pre-mixed Bach Flower Remedy that helps one cope with shock, panic and overwhelming fear. For instance, someone who has a phobia of flying can take Rescue Remedy in the days leading up to the flight, in the hours before the flight and on the flight itself.

Waiting for a phobia to just disappear is only appropriate when the phobia occurs in children under 4 years of age. So many of young children’s fears are developmental and will indeed fade on their own.  However, if a child is suffering with a fear – even though he is very small – it is certainly worth helping him to attain relief with one of the more simple interventions.  A common phobia of toddlers is the toilet. Many small kids are afraid to have a bowel movement in the toilet. Bach Flower Remedies such as mimulus and rock rose can help melt this fear away. Fears that persist in kids aged 5 and up should be treated, since they may not at this point, just vanish on their own.

Helping Your Child Cope with Traumatic Events

All parents want to protect their children from things that can unsettle or harm them. But sadly, there are many things in life that even the most conscientious of parents can’t control. Our children may witness or experience traumatic events despite our best efforts to shield them. When this happens, they may have difficulty bouncing back. Sleep disturbances, sadness, anger, fear, or other symptoms of trauma may plague a traumatized child long after the traumatic event has ended.

What is a Trauma?
Trauma is a psychological reaction to highly stressful events, particularly those that threaten life or safety. When an experience is considered traumatic, it means that the coping resources of the person witnessing or experiencing it are not enough to deal with the impact of the event, and some degree of psychological shock or breakdown occurs. Events that most people consider traumatic include vehicular accidents, crimes, natural disasters and physical or sexual abuse.  Although parents may think that trauma results only from catastrophic events like war or rape, it can actually occur as a result of more normal and common events. For instance, a child can be traumatized by being chased by a dog, by a harsh reprimand from a teacher, from a threatening bully, or from being laughed at while giving an oral report. What makes an event traumatic differs from person to person, as individual coping abilities must be taken into account. Personality factors, psychological profile and past history all play a role in producing a traumatic reaction. A trauma response often includes symptoms like reliving the event over and over again (obsessing about it; experiencing intrusive thoughts), panic attacks, nightmares, numbing and fog responses, avoiding people, places and things that trigger a memory of the event, depressed and/or angry mood and increased nervousness (startle response).

How can Parents Help Children Cope with Trauma?
Parental support is critical when a child is dealing with trauma. Unlike adults, younger children don’t yet have the ability to understand what they are going through. Not only is the original event traumatic, but their trauma symptoms too, can be traumatic. For instance, physical symptoms like tremors and nightmares, mental symptoms like obsessions and hallucinations, and emotional symptoms like fear and anxiety can be overwhelming for a child to be experiencing.

The first line of business is to help children manage their emotions. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. A traumatized child may talk about the same thing over and over again, and this is okay. The content of the sharing is less important than the process of getting things out. If a child finds difficulty in expressing what he is going through verbally, either because of age or because of the trauma, then consider non-verbal ways of venting emotions. Letting it all out can also be done using drawings and pictures, clay sculptures and toys, play-acting, and story-telling.

Second, give your child a rational explanation of the traumatic event, that is appropriate to his or her age. The more information the child has, the less he or she is likely to generalize the event to other situations. For instance, knowing that a car crashed because it skidded on the snow can help a child feel safe in cars with good snow tires and in cars driving on dry roads. Without this information, the child may conclude that all cars are dangerous at all times. (While this is in fact true, the healthy state of mind is one of sufficient denial that a person can comfortably drive and be driven at all times. Phobic and traumatized people, on the other hand, over-exaggerate the likelihood of a catastrophic event occuring again, such that they can’t live in a normal way.)

When a child is suffering rather mild symptoms, parents may find that self-help interventions are sufficient. For instance, learning how to do EFT (emotional freedom technique) with the child may complete calm the youngster’s nervous system. However, parents may prefer to take their child to a child psychologist who practices EFT or EMDR. Both of these techniques are used to rapidly heal the trauma of one-time events. If the child is experiencing many symptoms of trauma, it is essential that parents DO NOT try the self-help approach. Instead, they should take their child to a mental health professional who is specifically trained in the treatment of post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD). PTSD is the name for the cluster of symptoms that occur in reaction to a traumatic event. The “p” in this label for “post traumatic” points to the fact that trauma symptoms can suddenly occur months, years or even decades after the original traumatic event(s). The mind/body seems to wait for the “right time” to release the memory of the event(s).

Technqiues like EFT and EMDR can also be used as part of a longer therapy addressing more chronic forms of trauma (such as being subjected to chronic bullying, physical abuse or incest). These and other interventions are specifically designed to heal both the memories and the bodily reactions and return the child to his normal state. In addition, the Bach Flower Remedy called “Rescue Remedy” can help reduce temporary and chronic symptoms of trauma and is especially effective for home-management of symptoms inbetween psychotherapy sessions.

The good news is that children respond well to treatment of trauma. They can experience a complete healing of their symptoms and a return to “normalcy.” In fact, children are often even happier, calmer and more mature after trauma therapy than they were before the traumatic event(s) occurred.

Child is Bullied

Being the victim of a bully can take a severe toll on a child. There are intense feelings like anger, helplessness, sadness, shame and fear to process and accept. There’s also the stress that comes with the aftermath of the difficult event, including having to deal with authority figures who want to know more about what happened, and peers who choose to tease and ridicule. The effects of bullying can be felt for weeks, and in severe, traumatic cases – a lifetime.

If you have a child who has experienced bullying or mistreatment, consider the following tips:

Emphasize That It’s Not His or Her Fault
Bullying and mistreatment are the result of a perpetrator choosing to act aggressively against a less strong individual. This means that the problem is with the aggressor, not the victim. Kids need to know that they did nothing to “ask for it” — they did not get victimized because they deserve to be treated shabbily. Nor is the aggression a result of them being weak and fragile. Being stronger is not license to abuse one’s power.

Help Your Child Vent His or Her Feelings
As mentioned, surviving bullying and mistreatment can create many unpleasant emotions in a child. These emotions are normal, and should be affirmed by a parent or a caregiver. Saying that “you’ll get over it” or “you’re overreacting” or “toughen up” will just force a child to repress what he or she is feeling, instead of getting it out and moving on. If you want to help your child bounce back from a negative experience, give them the opportunity to grieve. Let them talk about what happened; allow them to cry, stomp their feet or temporarily withdraw from friends. When it comes to negative emotions, it’s better to let them out than keep them in.

Role Play Victory Over the Aggressor
Sometimes kids who are victimized ruminate about their inability to fight back. These thoughts can become obsessions, and in turn become anxieties. One way parents can help their child recover from their feeling of helplessness and self-blame is to role play what they want but didn’t or couldn’t do to their bully. For example, did they want to scream and fight back? Do they fantasize about telling the bully off? Let them paint a verbal fantasy of what they wish they would have done or what they’d like to do now – don’t worry about how violent it may sound. Imagining “pay back” aggression doesn’t lead to actually becoming violent; on the contrary, the imagination releases violent feelings in a safe, harmless way. Once the energy is moved out of the child’s mind, it is also moved out of his body. If,however, you notice that your child is actually talking about taking revenge in the real world, do step in and advice him of the potential negative consequences. Help your child identify with “good guy” characters rather than villains. Make up stories for him or ask your librarian for help in selecting books that will model the right attitudes and behaviors in the face of victimization.

Affirm Your Child’s Strengths
Focus on your child’s innate strengths and ability to recover. You don’t have to teach all skills in moving on from a bad experience. Instead, affirm what is already there and build from it. Bullying and mistreatment do not make the whole of your child’s person; for sure, he or she has plenty of things to feel proud out. However, if bullying has weakened your child’s self-concept, try to give your youngster extra “strengthening” experiences. For instance, enroll your child in sports or self-defense arts to build a strong physical self-image. This will help put a protective aura around your child so that bullies won’t be so tempted to pick on him. Or, enroll your child in drama classes so that he can experiment with and find different aspects of his personality that he can call upon when he needs to. Make sure you are not bullying your child at home with forceful discipline or name-calling; if your child gets used to being treated badly, he wears an invisible energetic sign that says “beat me up” – and disturbed children are all too willing to comply. Your child may benefit from assertiveness training or special anti-bullying classes, art therapy or play therapy. Other types of psychotherapy can also help your child process the pain of his experience and learn skills that will help him become “bully-proof” in the future. School guidance counselors may also provide good support and practical skills.

Anxious in Social Situations

Does the thought of giving a class presentation keep your child awake at night? How about the idea of introducing him or herself to strangers? Does your child obsessively worry about what others might say, and whether he or she will be liked? Or is he or she afraid to make social arrangements? If the answer to any of the above is yes, consider the possibility that your child has some level of social anxiety.

What is Social Anxiety?
As the term implies, social anxiety is the experience of discomfort, worry or fear when in the real or imagined presence of other people. Situations where one has to introduce and present one’s self, initiate and maintain conversation, or put oneself up for scrutiny and critique, trigger unease and concern in the person with social anxiety. Anxiety reactions can range from mild to severe – from just feeling nervous to deciding to avoid all social situations altogether.

Is Social Anxiety Normal?
Moderate social anxiety is a normal and common human condition. You yourself have probably worried at some point in your life about what others would think of you, or how strangers, friends and loved ones would react to you. In fact, social anxiety might be construed as a sign of a child’s growing appreciation of another person’s point of view and the natural stresses of relating with other people. After all, judgment is real and the consequences of rejection are also real. A bit of social anxiety can be considered healthy in that it is a realistic appreciation of the possible risks and costs of social interaction. It might even keep us in line, enhancing self-control and self-regulation (so as not to make fools of ourselves!) The trick is to manage moderate social anxiety so that it doesn’t get in our way or in the way of our children.

There are some self-help strategies that can help adults and children reduce normal levels of social anxiety. Practicing social skills can help. Parents can bring home some library books for their children on social skills and good manners. These can provide concrete strategies that will build confidence. Enrolling in drama class may increase social confidence as a child learns how to “act” social. Taking social skills classes from a professional social skills teacher can also be helpful.

There are also strategies geared to managing anxiety symptoms. For instance, before meeting new people, giving a presentation or attending a party, a person of any age can take “Rescue Remedy” (a Bach Flower Remedy available at health food stores and online). Rescue Remedy helps turn off “butterflies,” rapid heart-beat, sweaty palms and other symptoms caused by the release of adrenaline (the body’s panic and anxiety chemical). A few drops in a glass of water, sipped slowly, can restore a sense of calm. Similarly, preparing for the event by using EFT (emotional freedom technique – a self-help tool that turns off the adrenaline response) can be really helpful. There are lots of on-line resources for learning EFT. If a child or adult suffers from chronic social anxiety, he or she can use Bach Flower Remedies to heal the self-conscious tendency. Either visit a Bach Flower practitioner for a specially blended mixture of the remedies, look online for descriptions of each remedy, or simply experiment with a mixture of Rock Rose, Mimulus, Larch and Cerato (remedies that address common underlying reasons for the anxious feelings). If you choose to mix your own remedies, simply add 2 drops of each remedy to a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle (available where Bach Flower Remedies are sold) that has been filled with water. Add one teaspoon of brandy to preserve the mixture in the bottle. Take four drops four times a day until the anxiety is no longer an issue. If it returns, repeat the treatment. Repeat as often as necessary until the anxiety no longer returns.

Consider Social Anxiety Disorder
While feelings of social nervousness and self-consciousness can fall within the normal range, there are also social fears that are much more intense and problematic. When social anxiety causes severe distress or interferes with functioning at work, school or socially, then it may be a manifestation of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)  – a serious mental health disorder. The anxiety experienced by a person with SAD can be so extreme that the person has difficulty  working outside his own home environment or going to school and he or she may be unable to establish friendships or intimate partnerships.

Social Anxiety Disorder requires assessment and treatment by a mental health professional. A psychiatrist can prescribe anti-anxiety medication that may provide relief. Psychologists may set up cognitive-behavioral interventions or other interventions aimed at reducing and managing anxiety. A child with social anxiety should be seen by a child psychologist or pediatric psychiatrist. Parents who see that their child is overwhelmed by social anxiety can have the child’s pediatrician or doctor make a referral to a mental health professional for assessment.

Wakes Up Soaking Wet

It’s only natural for babies and untrained toddlers to urinate during the night. This is why toddlers and preschoolers normally wear diapers in the night even when they’re toilet trained during the day. But what if your child tends to wake up soaking wet? That is, your child wets his diapers so thoroughly that all the sheets are also wet or damp in the morning?

Consider the following tips:

Your Child Drinks Too Much Fluid Before Bed
Frequent urination during the night can simply be due to a large intake of water before going to bed. To minimize the possibility that your child will wake up soaking wet, limit your child’s drinking 2-3 hours before bedtime. In addition, discourage your child from drinking known diuretics, like caffeine-based soda, coffee-based drinks, and juices (many parents find that apple juice increases urination in their youngsters). And it also helps to encourage your child to pee right before going to bed.

Your Child Has a Tendency to Hold His/Her Bladder During the Day
Is the frequency of your child’s daytime urination within normal range (around 3-5 times a day)? If your child barely pees in the morning, then consider the possibility that he may be holding it in, which can lead to more frequent urination at night. Encourage daytime urination by taking your toddler or pre-schooler to the toilet at regular times throughout the day. Limit juice intake to the morning time, and give generous amounts of fluids up until mid-afternoon. Give a small glass of liquid with dinner and an even smaller drink in the evening if the child expresses thirst.

Consider Medical Conditions that Cause Frequent Urination
If your child has been waking up soaking wet for awhile, it’s best to visit a pediatrician. Although it is most likely that your child simply urinates heavily, it is important to rule out possible health issues that may be responsible. There are many conditions that can cause frequent urination in a child, one of which is diabetes. Early diagnosis will obviously be helpful way beyond solving the bed-wetting problem.

Maybe Your Child Has Outgrown a Diaper
Sometimes the problem is as simple as a diaper that is too small or poorly fitted. Experiment with different sizes and brands to see if a more absorbent product with a better fit helps to prevent leakage and wet sheets. Woolen diaper covers are very absorbant and help to prevent leakage through clothing and bedding. Although these can be found in speciality shops and online catalogues, you can also knit them up easily yourself: use machine-washable wool to knit a rectangle to fit your baby’s diaper area. Sew together at the sides, leaving an opening for the legs. Thread elastic through the top, to adjust to waist size. If you are a more proficient knitter, use some shaping at the crotch (knit 2, purl 2 for that portion) or go as fancy as you like!

Consider Nightmares and Night Terrors
If your child’s morning wetness is accompanied by anxiety, fear or other symptoms of nightmares or night terrors, then consider an emotional reason behind frequent nighttime urination. Changes in the child’s routine, moving home, birth of a new baby, parental conflict, starting nursery, changing babysitters – any stress can affect the operations of the body and particularly the digestive system. If the soaking is a relatively new situation, consider the possibility of stress and see if there are ways to help the child through it. A child psychologist may be helpful as well.