To you, furry friends are cuddly and lovable. But to your child, they can seem very terrifying indeed.
Here’s how to help them get over it.
1. Treat her fear with respect
True, her phobia may seem trivial, but it is very real to her. When you’re less than a metre in height, small animals look big, not to mention larger animals.
So don’t treat her like you think she’s silly.
2. Reassure her
She’s frightened because she genuinely believes she’s in danger. She needs you to reassure her that she will be safe.
Keep saying this over and over again to her in a gentle tone. She gains emotional strength from your confidence in her. A sympathetic and supportive hand on your shoulder will also help.
3. Set a positive example
For instance, if she starts to cry and tries to hide behind you when a small, friendly dog approaches, keep her beside you and let her watch as you gently stroke the animal.
Have a smile on your face as you do this. Suggest that she could stroke the animal, too – only if she wants to – and that she will be perfectly fine.
4. Discourage avoidance
She will not learn to beat her fear if she is allowed to run away.
On the contrary, that strategy will matters worse because she won’t have a chance to develop coping skills.
She has to face her fear – with your backing – before she can overcome it.
5. Persist with your support
Keep working patiently, reassuring her and calming her whenever she becomes afraid. Accept that some children take longer than others to beat their fears, but that yours will overcome it eventually. She needs you to persist with your support until she has beaten it. She needs you to believe in her.
6. Praise success
With your help, she will eventually make progress, through this may be in very small stages, and a little step at a time.
Show your delight when you see that she is more confident and less afraid than she was previously – this gives her further incentive to continue with her efforts.
By Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents / Updated August 2019