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Phobias in children - ignore or "pander"|

(14 Posts)
fearofcaves Sun 08-Feb-09 10:34:17

My 9 yr old dd2 (year5) has a school trip coming up soon (she tells me) where they will be "going underground". She isn't sure if it is caves, or a tunnel or a mine (well, she probably does know, but resented my questioning her).

The problem is that she has a fear of being underground. I don't know why, or where it's come from, but in her head it's real. It made our trip up the rock of Gibraltar fairly miserable (what with her fear of the monkeys as well), and recent trips with grandparents to a mine and some caves had to be changed (as they won't push her like I do).

She is saying she doesn't want to go on the school trip, and I am unsure how to approach this - do I tell her she has to go and it's hard luck, hoping that being with her friends and having no choice will mean that she is fine, do I tell her she has to go but let the teacher know of her fears, or do I give her the option of not going at all?

My gut feeling is to write to the teacher but insist she goes, but I wonder if that is going to be more damaging in the long term...

Help!

(namechanged by the way, as both my dd's stalk me on here. Not that you'd probably recognise me under my normal name!)

edam Sun 08-Feb-09 11:09:36

poor kid. I don't think there is any point in confronting someone who is genuinely scared with the thing that frightens them. People who think it is funny to show spiders to arachnophobes, for instance, are thick and cruel IMO.

Big difference between taking a brisk approach to a fussy child and being unkind to one with a real fear.

I'd ask the teacher for a chat, then sit down and explain that your dd's fears are real and ask whether there is anything both of you can do to help her with the trip. The teacher may have some ideas. Or may think it's going to be jolly hard to cope with a really terrified child when there are 30 others to look after.

If you want a long-term solution, then you should do some research and get some ideas about how to deal with fears. But I don't think shoving her on the trip with no preparation is a good idea.

fearofcaves Sun 08-Feb-09 11:18:14

"taking a brisk approach to a fussy child"

Yes! That sums me up perfectly, but I do sometimes see other mothers being "softer" and wonder if I should perhaps change my approach (hence this post).

Thanks for the thoughts - it's the sort of fear that usually doesn't make our lives difficult - we just avoid going underground. So I haven't really ever put much thought into dealing with it. But perhaps I'll have a quick google and see what advice there is around.

edam Sun 08-Feb-09 11:38:25

FWIW my sister used to have very real arachnophobia but managed to overcome it - so there is hope! (Sadly have forgotten how, exactly, and so has she, it was so long ago.)

fearofcaves Sun 08-Feb-09 11:44:59

Dd2 has a lot of phobias - dogs and spiders are 2 others, but generally she is a very confident child, which makes it a bit strange (in my head anyway).

She is also incredibly fussy when it comes to food, which drives me mad, and I won't pander to that (eg if she won't eat what's for dinner, she has to make herself something), so I do wonder if I'm just too hard sometimes.

It's no wonder I feel like I'm going mad sometimes, with all these contradictary thoughts going on in my head!

sfxmum Sun 08-Feb-09 11:49:24

honestly the very idea of caves makes me hyperventilate hell even closing the bathroom door makes me anxious sometimegrin

but with children being sympathetic and just listening reassuring them and trying to give them confidence to 'battle' their anxieties seem to work

my dd is only 3 and has had assorted fears over time but seem to recover quickly, it is a bugger when imagination kicks in and they picture odd scenarios in their minds.
my nephew, now a teen was the same

edam Sun 08-Feb-09 12:14:38

It's probably an evolutionary advantage to be scared of cold, dark, dangerous places. Although not in the really olden days when we lived in caves, of course.

fearofcaves Tue 10-Feb-09 22:00:16

Just had another tearful conversation with dd2, she is adamant thar she can't go on the trip. Turns out it is down a coal mine, I have been before and it is a fairly long tour, plus they turn the lights out while you are down there, so I do think she would find it very hard, as would her teacher, who (as edam says above) has other children to think of.

I have promised dd I will write to her teacher and explain why she can't go on the trip, and ask that she is left with another class for the day. We (dd & I) have agreed that we will do some of our own research on the mine, so she will be able to participate in the after-trip activities and work.

Does this sound reasonable?

BarkingHarriet Tue 10-Feb-09 22:06:04

I think that sounds very reasonable.

As an ex-dental phobic, I knew that the fear of the dentist was completely unreasonable - but it didn't stop me panicking. Even now, when I hear the noise and smell the smell of the dentist, it sets off an almost instinctive reaction which I know is unreasonable.

I think forcing her is the worst thing that you could do.

BananaFruitBat Tue 10-Feb-09 22:08:09

Would it be possible for your DD to spend the day with you in the local library doing some research, instead of (possibly) wasting the day sat with another class?

It would concern me that sitting with another class might highlight her fear to other children and may tease her about it.

fearofcaves Tue 10-Feb-09 22:12:02

I don't think there would be an issue with teasing, and I imagine if she wasn't in school, it would have to be agreed by the headteacher, otherwise it would be an unauthorised absence, and I have to take her out for 3 days in the summer to take part in a choir competition, so I would rather she was in school.

However, I will make sure I ask the teacher if there are any implications to her being in school when not in the trip.

Thanks.

DisasterArea Tue 10-Feb-09 22:19:53

how odd. was considering asking v similar
DD2 has real phobia type fears of spiders - screams hysterically and runs.
swimming pools - won't go, hasn't for years.
vegetables, especially tomatoes - can't even look at them.

i haven't forced her but would like her to eventually live a relitively normal life. will start saving for therapy.

ABetaDad Tue 10-Feb-09 22:35:53

My oldest is frightened of the dark and imagines shadows are monsters in his bedroom and people might come in the house at night. His little brother is not frightened at all and they sleep in the same room which gives his older brother confidence.

I found that also talking to him logically about the routine that Mummy and Daddy do before we go to bed gives him reassurance - checking outside gate is locked, doors are locked, windows locked, making sure we always know where our keys are, taking two mobile phones with us to bed, 3 torches upstairs.

I also tell him that Mummy and Daddy are never out of the house at night and we are always there in he morning and we have a stair gate on the stairs.

I do not feel I am pandering to him - but giving him a logical thought process to work through as a sort of calming check list he can go through when he feels frightened.

That said he went away overnight with the school and was perfectly happy.

fearofcaves Tue 10-Feb-09 22:41:12

I can see how your method would work with the kind of fears that are to do with needing reassurance etc, but I'm not sure how I could apply that approach to being underground? I think my dd's fear is a more "physical" fear.

If you have any ideas, I would welcome them, for the future - I like caves, and would like to avoid having to avoid them when on holiday etc.

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