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Fearful Child Can Become Brave: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids

By Sylvia Rimm

Q. My 8-year-old girl has a fear of noises, such as loud trucks passing by, crowds at the mall or parties, and she's also afraid of heights. When I have to leave her with people, even though they aren't strangers, she gets uncomfortable. Can you tell me what this could be?

A.The word we use to describe people's fears is phobia, so fear of heights is known as acrophobia and fear of loud noises is ligyrophobia. A fear of heights is quite common, and your daughter can get help from a psychologist to overcome that if you or she thinks it's important. The psychologist might use videos of someone standing at heights to help her to become accustomed to them in a relaxed, reassuring way.

As to the noises, your daughter may have sensitive hearing, but with time, she'll become accustomed to noise as well. You could probably help her with this by simply taking her shopping at the mall from time to time, or briefly reassuring her about the noises and then ignoring her complaints and continuing with activities, despite the normal noise level.

Finally, related to your daughter staying with friends, the more times you leave her there for a good experience, the more comfortable she'll become. For all of these fears, it would be important not to talk a lot about them to friends or family within your daughter's hearing. She'll be likely to outgrow all three. The fear of heights seems to be most persistent, probably because adjusting to heights is not a daily activity.

Encouraging Kids To Love Reading

Q.My 11-year-old son hates to read. He enjoyed reading at first, but lost interest around the second grade. His reading grade averaged a C throughout elementary school. He'll be entering junior high this year, and I'm really worried about him. How can I help him get interested in reading?

A.Here are some tips for encouraging children to love reading. Hopefully they'll be helpful for your son.

  • Continue family reading through the teen years. Reading together aloud or silently creates an atmosphere in which children are likely to love books.
  • Permit children to stay up half an hour later at night if they're reading to themselves in bed. (Kids don't usually like to sleep; it's adults who do.)
  • Encourage children to read whatever they enjoy. Don't insist they read grade-level material. Comics, cartoons, sports magazines, easy material and books read multiple times are all good for building reading confidence.
  • Model reading by keeping a book or magazine around that your children see you enjoying.
  • Become a regular visitor with your children to libraries. Wander through them as part of your travels.
  • When shopping, stop by bookstores, and browse and purchase books.
  • Computers and the Internet can be sources of good reading. Keep the computer in a family room to prevent inappropriate use.
  • Limit TV watching, video games and computer time (screen time). If this becomes a power struggle, you may find a plug lock very effective.
  • Encourage classroom contests and rewards for numbers of books read. Begin with small numbers and increase expectations gradually.

If these don't help, I suggest having your son evaluated for a possible reading disability. You're right that junior high school will require him to do more reading than he's done before, so it's better to encourage him now.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com.

Categories: School-Age, Tweens, Children,

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