Dealing with a child’s fear can be difficult for parents. Rarely does a parent really know the right thing to say or do to alleviate those fears, so books like Listening to Fear: Helping Kids Cope from Nightmares to the Nightly News are a necessity for helping us help our children. Steven Marans, Ph.D., Harris Associate Professor of Child Psychoanalysis and associate professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, presents parents and caregivers with a wonderfully empowering and informative guidebook for properly responding to the fears of children of all ages.
Drawing on over twenty-five years of clinical experience, the author takes us through the stages of fear that correspond with a child’s age. He also teaches concepts and techniques for talking to children about what they may be feeling and experiencing, and how to get through to them when they refuse to communicate. Each age group presents different challenges, from the nightmares of small children to the more peer-based fears of adolescents, to the worries of teenagers struggling to become independent of their parents. And each age group poses numerous challenges for parents who want to stay close to their kids and be able to best respond during times of trauma, stress, fear and high anxiety.
What the author suggests is that we first must understand the inner landscape of childhood fears and then learn to decode our child’s behavior, because rarely does a child come right out and say what he or she is afraid of. Once we have this basic understanding, we can move forward to utilize the author’s suggestions of what to say and do to help a child move beyond these fears. In fact, the whole point is to really help the child learn to cope on their own without our help, but our job is to first teach them the skills and show that they work.
One special issue the author focuses on is how parents must first learn to cope with their own fears in order to really help their children. This is something many of us parents forget as we spend our days anxious over the nightly news or upset about financial or relationship issues. Our children are always watching us and absorbing our emotions and responses. The author also empasizes the importance of not letting our adult interpretations of our child’s response get in the way of the reality the child is trying to convey. This is challenging stuff, but critical to parents who love and care about their kids and want to see them grow into capable adults.
Listening to Fear is all about the power of really listening to our kids, and helping them to open up and communicate. It is also about coming to terms with some of our own fears, past and present, and how they affect our children. I highly recommend this book for all parents, teachers and caregivers with kids under the age of eighteen. It is a “must-have” on any bookshelf in today’s fear-based, anxiety-provoking times.