Childhood naivety makes many events or situations dangerous. We must avoid manipulating the child’s behavior with promises of punishment, with exaggerations, with terrifying figures that repress spontaneity …, and above all we must avoid negative impressions that drown his mind.

In the treatment of fears or anxiety disorders in childhood , exposure to feared stimuli, the use of positive reinforcement, the presence of an adult capable of instilling security, and some strategy to facilitate motivation should be included as general techniques.

Exposure to phobic stimuli , until the fear subsides significantly and without escape behavior taking place, is the most effective psychological treatment currently available for dealing with fear avoidance behaviors. Exposure to phobic stimuli can be done in imagination or live . Imaginative exposure is not easy to practice with children under the age of 10-11 years, since below this age children are generally not capable of vividly imagining the phobic stimulus. The treatment of direct exposure to the fear situation is more effective when it is carried out in the form of self-exposure , that is, with little accompaniment or with a reasonable distance from the child’s family members.

Other applicable techniques

  • Systematic desensitization

This technique aims to provoke emotions incompatible with fear . To achieve this, the child is asked to imagine a story with heroes and when he begins to feel affective reactions of courage, joy, pride, etc., the phobic stimulus is introduced so that the child faces his fears as the hero who has imagined.

  • Modeling techniques

These techniques are based on the important role that the observation of a model plays in learning. In modeling without live models, the phobic child observes other children in videos or movies who interact with the stimuli that he fears and who, far from experiencing fear reactions, enjoy the interactions presented on the screen. Sometimes this modeling can be presented by means of stories , although in general they have a lower influence than that of visual images. The most interesting variant of modeling is participant modeling or with live models, where the child observes an adult or, more frequently, another child who faces the situations that cause fear without experiencing negative consequences.

  • Self-instruction techniques

The objective of this technique is to modify the internal dialogue or thoughts of the child to facilitate coping with a certain situation. For this it is necessary to modify negative thoughts and replace them with more adaptive ones. Self-instructions should refer more to the initiation of positive behaviors (I will be calm) than to the inhibition of negative behaviors (I will not get nervous). The effectiveness of the self-instructions will depend on the individual differences of the children, such as the degree of intelligence and the intensity of the internal language.

The prognosis for anxiety or fear disorders in childhood is relatively good. Most children do well over time and benefit well from treatment. Most children who manifest fear in childhood grow up to be normal adults.

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