How to reduce fear in children: Encourage reading; expand mental horizons
Thus reading, listening to great stories, discussing interesting issues in schools, will help children learn to focus and will help them to reduce their fears and make them better citizens.
One of the biggest problems I see among the youth in India is anxiety. This is an outcome of insecurity borne out of fear. Fear of losing out; fear of failing; fear of an uncertain future is all the fears that make the youth very insecure. This fear complex also leads them to tell lies and later on in life leads to their risqué and unethical behavior and corruption.
Why have the children developed this fear complex?
One of the reasons for the fear complex could be that from an early age, children are scolded and often beaten up for telling the truth. This makes them hide it and hence start telling lies to avoid punishment. Once they realize that telling lies helps them it becomes a habit. But it also creates a fear complex since they are always afraid that the truth may be found out.
The pressures of family, peers and others to perform well in studies further creates such conditions. Thus with the constant pressures of exams, the fear complex keeps on building. Children somehow are living from one exam to another and a continuous reminder to them from parents and teachers that if they fail their whole life will be ruined adds greatly to the fear complex.
Pressure on children
This continuous pressure of passing exams has also made our children less curious and has affected their creativity. In fact, the exam culture has created a whole generation of clerks who are good at managing things rather than creating and innovating.
Social media further exacerbates this fear complex since lack of instant gratification creates anxiety and fear of rejection is always present. This fear leads to anxiety and attention deficit disorder because young children are always looking for rewards for their behavior which comes in the form of likes, positive comments, etc. on social media. This anxiety leads to loneliness, anger, and the exhibition of rash behavior in driving and interacting with others. In extreme cases, it also leads to suicidal behavior.
With a continuous focus on getting instantaneous rewards their attention span is also reduced drastically and they stop thinking, contemplating or looking deeper into the matter. Somehow the youngsters have gotten into the habit of simply reacting to events and messages. They are therefore losing the habit of contemplation and reflection.
The first casualty of such behavior is concentration. With deficit, attention concentration becomes less, and it affects the quality of the brain and thought process. As discussed in a previous article in this column, concentration can be increased by inculcating the habit of reading in children both in schools and homes. Thus reading books should be encouraged.
Don't coerce children
So what can we do to reduce fear and anxiety in children’s mind?
The first thing is that both in school and at home the children should not be coerced. Parents too often release their frustrations and anger on children since they know they cannot retaliate. It will naturally require great discipline on the part of the parents to treat their children with consideration. With societal pressures, it is difficult to do so. But still, it has to be tried.
Similarly in school, children should be guided to do things properly. Corporal punishment is now mostly removed from Indian schools but still some teachers are harsh on children. There will however be some children who are difficult to handle and thus the role of great teachers becomes important in taming them. Nevertheless, for some of these kids, some form of harsh discipline is necessary.
Lots of children from early childhood are afraid of darkness, loneliness, ghosts, etc. These fears go away as they grow older. However, if these early fears are further compounded by stress, then it creates lot of psychological knots in the brain. These psychological knots reduce the brain's information-processing capacity and lead to anxiety. Hence, we should help the children to reduce their fears.
With the reduction in fear the brain can focus on the subject at hand, and this is the genesis of 'junoon' or passion. Anything done with tremendous concentration helps the mind to forget about everything else and focus only on the job at hand. Creativity then flows from a fearless mind.
All great inventions, and discoveries of the world have been made by people who had very powerful concentration and in focusing on the work they even lost the concept of time and everything else. Examples of Gandhi ji, Einstein, Newton, Beethoven, Bach, etc. come to mind.
Inculcating reading habits
With deep concentration, where almost all the available neurons in the brain are firing for information processing, one also gets a feeling of well-being. This is the basis of meditation where one thinks deeply about a subject for a long time and is also the reason why deep meditation is so relaxing and helps positively the brain and the body.
With better reading habits, children can start thinking deeply about the subjects they read. This helps in increasing their imagination and daydreaming since the reading material produces a mental movie. This is the genesis of meditation.
Thus reading, listening to great stories, and discussing interesting issues in schools, will help children learn to focus and will help them to reduce their fears and make them better citizens.
(The writer is Director and Hon. Secretary, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra. Views are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
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