How do you address a fear in your child?
Amelia, age six, first-grader extraordinaire, has been experiencing an increased phobia lately. She is terrified that kids will throw up at school. At first I thought it was a worry that she herself would get sick, or that perhaps her gentle heart would once again feel the pains of her friends. But she assures me it is neither. She is simply afraid that someone will throw up - and I won't be there. Last night, she was crying in her bed until she finally called out to me. She was actually afraid to go to school just because someone might throw up.
In 170-some days of school last year, one kid in her class threw up. Just one.
Well, imagine my surprise when the trusty (sometimes) Internet told me that this is, in fact, a real phobia!
Emetophobia: The Fear of Vomiting - see info and description from AnxietyCoach.com
So, apparently this is a type of panic disorder. Amelia is reminded of vomiting because she says "kids are coughing all day" in school. She hears all the coughing (probably heightened these weeks because everyone seems to catch a cold when back-to-school), and feels actual fear. Her avoidance technique is to want Mommy. She becomes fearful, wants to be with me immediately, and becomes very sad. She is afraid that someone will vomit at the start of the school day and she will be stuck without me for several hours. She worries at night that someone will vomit the next day. She can barely tolerate the coughing from other children in her class. I am thankful that her fear presents itself only occasionally, but I am beginning to become concerned that it will actually send her into a panic one day.
While I am completely fascinated by the idea of this phobia, I am also trying to figure out the best way to address this with my sweet girl. We should never make light of our children's fears. They have fears for a reason and there is always a way to address those fears, "silly" or not, while remaining respectful of the child. At the same time, I do not want to make a bigger deal out of it than I should. There is probably a fine line somewhere between addressing it and blowing it all out of proportion.
So far I am just muddling through. I am the one she turns to for comfort and I do my best to acknowledge the fear and talk her through it. If this is a phase, it will pass. If it is bigger than that, I will accept my responsibility to do whatever I can for her. That's what mamas do!
Who knew that emetophobia was actually a real thing?!