Monsters Under the Bed: Understanding Kid Fears

When Fears Become Phobias

People often use the words fear and phobia interchangeably, but the two problems couldn't be more different. If your kid's afraid of water, for example, he may cry at bathtime, but you can usually coax him into the tub. But a child who has a phobia about water might become hysterical just hearing you turn on the tap -- you can forget even getting him to set foot in the bathroom.

About 3 to 5 percent of kids will develop a phobia, an intense, excessive fear that lasts longer than a few months, grows out of proportion, and affects the child's ability to function. Common kid phobias include animals, insects, water, storms, darkness, and getting hurt. If your child has developed a phobia, talk to your pediatrician or a child psychologist who specializes in treating it. Don't ignore the problem or assume your child will grow out of it, since it may just get worse.

Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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