What can you do to recognize fear in your child and help her to overcome it? An infant may cry loudly and exhibit a startle response-arms thrust outward, body rigid-when frightened. Older children’s reactions are more varied. They may run, cling to an adult, scream, close their eyes, and freeze in panic in a frightening situation. It is easy to recognize that these children are afraid. But the child who shows an excessive fascination with spiders-for example, constantly asking questions about them and always looking for them-may be just as worried as the child whose fear is obvious in his behavior.
When does a child’s fear get to the point that it prevents him from growing toward independence? Sandy may be afraid to go walking in the woods because he may see a snake. That is not unusual. But if he is afraid to go out of the house because he may see a snake in the yard or in the street, he has developed a fear that keeps him from growing toward self-confidence. If you suspect that your child has such a fear, talk with adults who see your child in other situations-a nursery school teacher or childcare person, or another parent in your neighborhood.