Being a kid was not easy. The world was full of threats, and you could take nothing for granted. If you swallowed a seed, the plant would grow in your body. A psycho would hide behind the shower curtain every time you entered the bathroom. And for dessert, you could never skip a square when walking down the sidewalk, ‘cause you'd either get someone close to you in trouble, or (pick one) the plague would start.
Luckily, we are all past this point and as grown adults, most of these irrational fears are far behind us. But that doesn't mean we don’t remember them, since so many people on Twitter feel like it was yesterday. After one woman who goes by the Twitter handle @torY asked “did anyone else go through a phase as a kid where u were genuinely concerned ab the bermuda triangle?” it soon became evident that not only was she not the only one, but that there are many more threats we had to endure as kids.
So let’s see what things used to send chills down our spine right down below, and please remember, even if those fears may look unreasonable today, it doesn’t mean they weren’t real and distressing then.
To find out more about fears among children, Bored Panda reached out to Dr. Kristin Pleines, a clinical social therapist at Manhattan Play Therapy who specializes in doing trauma work to help young families and children. Kristin explained that irrational fears happen to kids of all ages, and there are very common fears that children in different age groups may experience.
Kristin suggests that parents validate their child’s feelings first. “We want the child to feel validated, supported, and safe.” She gave an example of a seven-year-old afraid of being snuck up on by a snake—a child who has never even encountered a snake.
“You might say something like, ‘I'm sorry you feel scared. We all get scared sometimes, and I know it's not fun. But there aren't any snakes in our house, and we aren't going to keep looking for them, because you're safe here. I think your brain is playing a little trick on you, so let's find a way to distract it!’”
Another way is to get creative. “For example, you might pretend to be snakes and wiggle around, or start to research different kinds of unique snakes together. This is actually a type of exposure, which helps desensitize the child to his or her fear,” Kristin said.
Usually, irrational fears tend to go away on their own as children develop. Only if the fear persists for more than a few months, or if it begins to interfere with the child's daily functioning, Kristin recommends that parents consult a therapist.
“For example, if a child begins avoiding situations that he or she previously enjoyed in an effort to avoid reminders of their fear, this is a sign that the fear might be better addressed with the help of a professional.”
The therapist also explained that irrational fears can be caused by trauma, OCD, and anxiety, and “there is a particular nuance to addressing fears based on their underlying cause.”