18. January 2013

How to Cure your Child’s Fear of Animals

We all have something we’re afraid of. For children, this can sometimes be animals, and this can present a large problem – from our neighbour’s lawn to the local park, we’re surrounded by creatures! Like any fear, it can generally be conquered, but you’ll need to be very supportive of your little one. Here are a few pointers for getting your child through the worst stages:

Understand

Sometimes, your child’s fear of animals can lead to frustrating results; for example, refusing to go to a friend’s house because their family has pets. Instead of feeling angry, try to understand your child’s feelings.

Tough love won’t work here, so never lose your temper or make fun of your kid’s anxieties. Reassure your child that, when in the presence of domestic pets, they won’t get hurt, and that an animal only retaliates if they are scared or threatened.

Do Fun, Animal-Related Activities

It has been shown that reading animal picture books or watching child-friendly films involving creatures can help your child surmount their anxieties. Hopefully, your little one will start associating positive feelings with animals and you’ll be one step closer to your goal. Talk about animals and try to educate your kid about how they live, as sometimes fear of animals is simply fear of the unknown.

A great way to bring your child safely closer to animals is at a zoo. Explain that the creatures are safely locked up, but don’t make your little one go unless he or she is willing.

Look To Your Fears

If you’re afraid of any animals, such as spiders, you’re promoting a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude that young children struggle to follow. If you’re anxious or terrified in the presence of certain animals, your kids will take cue from this behaviour – that’s why so many eight-legged phobias are passed down through the generations, even though spiders in the UK are harmless.

Begin by tackling your own fears before you address your child’s. Lead by example.

Consider A Pet

An animal as innocuous as a kitten can be a stepping stone for your child. Choose a pet together that your little one is happy with and teach him or her how to behave towards animals. Abusive or unkind behaviour can lead to an animal lashing out, so encourage kindness and show your child how to stroke a cat or dog the right way. Always positively support your kid and reward them for any leaps in confidence around animals.

Judge The Severity

If your child’s fear has become so irrational that he or she refuses to leave the house, you may have to contact professional services to help your child lead a normal life. When the fear is manageable, take him or her to visit houses with gentle pets that won’t startle your kid; especially if there are children there too. If your little one sees other kids playing with animals, he or she should start to see that creatures are generally harmless.

Post by Tony, a UK blogger working on behalf of Knowsley Safari Park.

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