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Post a brief description of a common child or adolescent fear or phobia other than fear of the dark. Sadly, children and adolescents today are growing up with an additional set of fears or phobias because of the current times we live in. According to Burnham (2009, pg. 1), children fear crime, racial tension, poverty, divorce, pollution, overpopulation, world hunger, guns, shootings, gangs, dying, kidnapping, and behind home alone. This is in addition to the classical fears such as thunderstorms, darkness, death, animals, disease, and ghosts. I have worked with one client specifically who was an 11-year-old male who had a huge fear of the world ending and this was right before COVID-19 entered into our minds and lifestyles. He would want to know exactly what to do for each scenario and how he could help his family survive.
Then, explain at least three contemporary factors (environment, culture, society, family, or media) that may contribute to the development and persistence of the phobia, and explain how. As Burnham (2009, pg.1) explains, global events such as crisis, disease, and disasters have prompted researchers to study contemporary fears of children and adolescents. This can be something like COVID-19 currently and the children having to isolate in their homes with the news on in the background or hearing their families discuss what is currently going on. Television and Media Exposure considering we are mostly staying at home right now, the TV and screentime have been increased in some homes to keep the children busy. This in turn increases their exposure to the news and their visibility to the pandemic. Lastly, societal changes are a cause of contemporary fears of children. This is illustrated in the isolation that children are now having to experience and the changes in the family dynamic such as not seeing their family in person but only through a screen.
Finally, explain one way you might help the parents/guardians support their child or adolescent to overcome the fear or phobia and explain how. Flatt (2008, pg. 1) discusses that children react to fear in three different forms including cognitive, physiological, and overt behavioral responses. It is important to look at how that child we are working with is responding to the fear or phobia so we can tailor our services to meet their individual needs. In the case I mentioned above with my eleven-year-old male client, he had all three responses to fearing the world ending. One thing we did in partnership with the parents was limit the client’s exposure to the news. We didn’t want to shelter the child from what was going on around him as that could create additional fear, but we wanted to assist the family in being able to inform him of what was going on so they could put it in ways he would understand and be there to help with any coping strategies to decrease his heart rate like deep breathing. We also discussed safety planning to help him to recognize that there are steps that the family and he could take to feel safe in their home and the environment we are currently living in. This included what to do in case of fire, emergency contacts, and what to do for earthquakes. The parents created a binder that held all of the documents and worked with the child on building “go packs” that included water, extra clothes, snacks, etc that the entire family would keep in the car and another set that they would have in the designated spot in the home. This helped the client to feel that no matter where he was, he had items that could help him. Over time and through a partnership with his treatment team and parents, the client was able to feel safer in his environment and did not have a fear of the world ending at the same level he was having before the use of the interventions. Every once in a while, the fear will rise again and the parents know the proper grounding techniques, deep breathing, and communication tools to help him feel comfortable and at ease again.
Burnham, J. J. (2009). Contemporary fears of children and adolescents: coping and resiliency in the 21st century. Journal of Counseling and Development, 87(1), 28.
Flatt, N., & King, N. (2008). Building the Case for Brief Psychointerventions in the Treatment of Specific Phobias in Children and Adolescents. BEHAVIOUR CHANGE, 25(4), 191–200.
A brief description of a common child or adolescent fear or phobia other than fear of the dark. Then, explain at least three contemporary factors (environment, culture, society, family, or media) that may contribute to the development and persistence of the phobia, and explain how.
I have a cousin, Jenna, that has a four-year-old daughter, Kennedy, that is very afraid of animals. One contemporary factor contributing to her fear is Jenna and her house environment. Jenna has anxiety and has a fear of animals that she expresses when around animals. Due to this fear, the family does not plan trips to places such as the zoo. They do not have family pets or expose anyone in the household to animals. Jenna requests that when visiting others, any animals present in the home are in cages or kennels when visiting. There are visible and invisible signs that Jenna feels anxious around animals, such as her body language facing away from animals, her body becoming tenser, and her tone of voice becomes higher (Liberman, 2016). Another contemporary factor is the family, as the parental style asserts more control over their children. Jenna runs a daycare in her home, where Kennedy attends. There are limited opportunities for Kennedy to be around other adults that provide less guided activities and more open exploration. Kennedy seeks support, comfort, and reassurance continually from her mother in all environments. When Kennedy is even in the same area as an animal, she runs to Jenna and wants to be held (Kane, Braunstein, Oilendick & Muris, 2015). A final contemporary factor is the media portraying girls in movies and television as needing to be saved, displaying more emotions and less aggression. Specifically for Kennedy, she loves watching Disney princess movies. Although the princesses often have pet friends, they are less likely to be the lead in a movie and more likely to seek support and reassurance from other such as male characters or fairy godmothers (Liberman, 2016). Kennedy’s fear impacts her ability to feel safe and comfortable when at others’ homes and in her community. Especially as she attends an in-home daycare, she has minimal exposure to other adult figures and animals. When she leaves the home, she asks if there will be animals at the destination and once there, will not leave Jenna.
Finally, explain one way you might help the parents/guardians support their child or adolescent to overcome the fear or phobia, and explain how. Be specific.
One way I would help Jenna support Kennedy would first be to address Jenna’s anxiety and fear of animals. I would utilize psychoeducation to teach her about her physiological symptoms she experiences when she is around animals. It is apparent to people around her that she is feeling anxious. I would want her to begin to understand her fear and not to fear the symptoms occurring in her body. I am curious about how she feels when she is anxious and if she has an awareness of the signs that she displays. In addition to that awareness, I would provide education about how her anxiety, responses, and lack of exposure for herself impacts Kennedy. Discussing the biological, psychological, and social impacts of the reaction to animals and then additional lack of exposure heightens Kennedy’s response. The more frequent heightened response situations her Kennedy experiences throughout her childhood and adolescent years, the more likely she is to develop anxiety as an adult. If Jenna was open to it, I would discuss potentially seeking cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy for herself and for Kennedy to address this fear of animals (Flatt & King, 2008).
Flatt, N., & King, N. (2008). Building the case for brief psychointerventions in the treatment of specific phobias in children and adolescents. Behaviour Change, 25(4), 191-200.
Kane, E. J., Braunstein, K., Oilendick, T. H., & Muris, P. (2015). Relations of anxiety sensitivity, control beliefs, and maternal-over control to fears in clinic-referred children with specific phobia. Journal of child and family studies, 24(7), 2127-2134.
Liberman, L. C., & Ost, L. G. (2016). The relation between fears and anxiety in children with specific phobia and parental fears and anxiety. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(7), 2127-2134.
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