As I’ve established, fear is a natural part of childhood. However, children aren’t born with these terrors and anxieties. Some may be introduced through socialization, but many come to fruition as a result of the natural development process. It’s a fascinating correlation, and with a bit of study, I’m sure we can gain some insight into what scares kids the most—and how to help them through it.
Newborns—Newborn babies have two fears: loud noises and falling. These phenomena are not easily interpreted by their undeveloped brains, and the speed and sensory overload is enough to send them into a screaming fit.
7-11 Months—Stranger and separation anxiety become apparent in babies after spending a significant amount of time with the mother and/or father. While this is a healthy part of development, these anxieties are especially frustrating for parents.
1 Year—Along with a child’s first steps, the one-year birthday brings with it a growing need for independence and control over the environment. This means that things beyond the child’s control will be especially frightening—jumping dogs, automatic-flush toilets, thunder, and the dark. The inability to control these phenomena will continue into early adolescence, sometimes well into adulthood. This is why jump scares in horror film and television remain remarkably successful for some people. It’s not explicitly the fear of the noise—it’s the fear of the unknown.
While these fears are a natural part of childhood, they rarely cross the line into phobia territory. Genuine phobias in childhood are extremely uncommon. While most childhood fears are considered to be irrational from an adult perspective, they are actually very reasonable. If, however, you continue to experience a fear of the dark, dogs, or thunder well into adulthood, your childhood fear has likely transformed into something more sinister.