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When are normal childhood fears out of control?
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When are normal childhood fears out of control?

My son is 5 years old and for as long as I could remember, he has had a fear of people in costume.  In some cases a fear of strange looking people.  It started with a fear of Santa Claus.  I never thought it was anything out of the norm or to worry about until recently.  He started kindergarden in the fall.  I happen to know his teacher pretty well and I explained to her that he had this fear in case they have people in costume come to entertain the children.  She told me that it was normal for some children to have that fear.  She got a true taste of his reaction when they had someone come in dressed like a dog to read to the children.  My son screemed and ran to the fartherest point in the class room and stood behind one of the teachers aid crying and shaking until he left the room.  Later the teacher told me that she had no idea that his fear was that intense.  This comes from a kindergarden teacher of 20+ years.  That is when I realized that maybe his normal childhood fear has gotton to the unhealthy level.  We are planning a trip to disney this November.  A place my son has been to twice before.  He was very excited about it until I showed him the promotional video which showed the different characters and he now does not want to go.  The last time we went he spent the entire time looking around for characters.  We could not go within eye sight of one.  When I questioned him about it he tells me that he understands that there are real people in costume but he thinks they are strangers trying to get him.  He doesn't even feel safe when we are with him.  I am afraid that his normal childhood fear is turning into a phobia which he is obsessing about.

I wonder if I should do anything to try to help him overcome this fear or let it be.
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Dear Debbie,

This is not an uncommon fear of children your son's age, but the intensity of his fear is at the extreme end of the spectrum.

The degree to which it interferes with his day-to-day life will determine whether you should seek professional assistance. Left alone, he will likely be less fearful as he develops. But a child mental health clinician with a cognitive-behavioral focus would certainly be able to help him master this fear. If his fear is confined to this one situation, it represents a simple phobia and effective treatment protocols are available to help him.
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My daughter is 4 years old and is very fearful of sleeping alone. We've tried nightlights, cuddle time before bed, talking about it. The only way she would go to sleep is to sleep on a pallet next to my husband's and my bed on the floor. She's also afraid to go to a room alone. What should we do?















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My son is 5 years old.  Ever since he was very small, he was easily gagged.  The pediatrician said that it was actually a good thing, because the chances of him choking on something were slim because of this gag reflex.  He also suffers from "motion sickness" when travelling.

In addition to this (also since he was small) whenever he gets extrememly upset or fearful, he vomits.  This has been normal for him, and the pediatrician assures me that some children show stress in the form of wetting their pants, some vomit, etc., and to not be concerned about it.

The problem now is that he has started a new pre-school.  Because of the new situation, as usual, he will vomit.  His previous preschool was not concerned, they told me they had seen it before and if given time, he would adjust, which he did.  This new school insists that he has a "fear repression" problem and that he should possibly see a therapist to learn to cope with his fears.  He "needs to learn that vomiting is not an acceptable form of expression, and he needs better coping skills."  At age 5?  

My mother said that I had the same problem at his age, and I of course outgrew it.  I had an abusive father, and always attributed my problem to that abuse.  My son, however, has a happy home life, much love and a great support system from not only his father and I but also his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.  I always figured my problem was situational, could this possibly be hereditary?  Stomach problems run in my family, as does a "nervous stomach."

One extra note:  he is an only child.

Should I be concerned about this?  My Pediatrician isn't, but this school is.  Help!

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My six year old daughter has the same fear of people in costumes as the child listed above, and it is the same intensity.  What are some techniques that we can employ at home to help her?
We thought about bringing home a big bear costume and a little bear costume and have her dad and her dress up together...
She knows there are nice people in the costumes.  She tells us she is not afraid of the people in there, but she is afraid of the costumes.  On the way to the museum this summer she said "See Mom?  My fear is shaking."  She was so afraid there would be people in costumes.  She has had to leave field trips at summer camp because of this, and would not go to the zoo because of the 'dancing turtles'.  Or the water park--the list goes on and on.  

When we ask her why she is afraid, she says she doesn't know.  When we ask her if she is afraid they will hurt her, she says no.
But she just gets hysterical when confronted with the possibility of an encounter.

Please help!!  
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My eight year old has developed a strong separation anxiety.  She and I have always been close.  When she was 5 and scared to go to a firend's house, I would always protect her feelings and have the friend come to our house.  Now, she is afraid to play at other people's houses, physically feels ill before going to soccer practise and cannot sleep over at a friend's birthday no matter how badly she would like to.  What are the best steps to take to start to over come her fears?
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