How to Handle Your Children’s Fears And Forgetfulness


We all have secret fears, which may seem silly to others but are very real to us. The adult who fears flying can be shown safety statistics, but at 30 000 feet they remain terrified by the slightest change in engine sound. Everyone is allowed their fears, it’s only when they become major phobias that damage our day-to-day lives that we need help.

Children have different worries at different ages. A three-year-old might be terrified of loud noises, electric hand dryers, ambulance sirens and dogs. By six years they may fear the dark, falling, losing their mum, wind, thunder, ghosts and monsters. At ten years they worry about school failure, speaking in front of the class, looking foolish, how they appear and possible friction in their parents’ marriage.

Child Fears

Most school-age fears are fed into our children by what they see in the world or hear from their parents. Our necessary warnings about road safety, stranger danger and home security may cause our children to fear injury, abduction and burglars.

Miscommunication also raises fears. When Grandma is rushed to hospital it is often easier to say she has a severe cold than explain heart failure. But if Grandma dies in hospital, the child’s next cold may be seen as a serious event.

I remember family gatherings when adult relatives talked in whispers about the sadness of senile decay. It seemed an entire generation of my blood relatives was suffering from this incurable illness. It must have been very serious or people wouldn’t whisper and pray about it.

To make things worse, ‘senile’ sounded like an important male personal part. The thought that this might decay or drop off filled me with fear. If the adults in my life had said straight, ‘Your relatives are getting old’, I would have understood.

I often see school-age children who have a fear of walking around the house alone at night. We can support them through this fear by holding their hand as they walk through a dark room then standing near the door as they go alone. If dark is the problem, keep lights on dim and reduce the power until confidence starts to grow.

It seems crazy that a nine-year-old can’t go from the family room to the toilet without an escort, but for some reason it’s important to them. They gradually get better with help from an accepting, reassuring parent. I do not psychoanalyze these children; I aim to support and use gradual desensitization.


In the brain, the bit that imparts intelligence is not always attached to the centre of organization and reliable memory. This causes some children to leave their belongings on the bus, have the wrong books for homework and forget the tutor after school. Parents look on in disbelief. You are not asking much; they have to deliver a note to their teacher, not the Gettysburg address.

With the disorganized and forgetful you can’t work miracles, but memory jogs help reliability.

Teach children to stop for a minute before they leave home, to think through the day’s programme and check they are carrying the right gear. They can stop again on leaving the swimming pool and when they finish school for the day.

  • Write notes and “To do” lists.
  • Write a reminder word on their hand.
  • Tie a knot in their handkerchief.
  • Put a rubber band on one wrist to remind them.
  • Set a watch alarm.
  • Put their watch on the wrong wrist to jog their memory.
  • Have a chart on the fridge door that lists all important activities throughout the week, and encourage them to refer to it regularly.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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