How do you teach a child the difference between imagination and reality?  In particular, a child who has an overactive imagination that can be frightening for them? 

 

Are there any good resources to share with the child, such as books, workbooks, etc. to help work through the fear and to help them realize when something is part of their imagination vs. something that is real. 

 

As you may know I do not have children, but am very fascinated with the topic of good atheist parenting.   

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John D. Wow that's very fascinating. I like the idea of her knowing she always had protection and it's great she grew out of it. 
 
You made a very interesting point in your last paragraph that even though she knew the difference it was a matter of controlling it.  I wonder how we learn how to control our imagination, if we do it consciously such as recognizing "Oh this is my imagination", or if the emotional aspect of us finally listens to the logical side after repetition, or if it's a completely subconscious procress that has to do with growing up.  I wonder if there's something that happens differently in the minds of people who have a hard time controlling their imagination vs. people who have an easier time of it, and perhaps that could provide the key to learning that skill. 
I believe this is a developmental thing.  My son is five and is just starting to ask me what is real and what isn't. He seems to have a general understanding of what is fake and what isn't, but up until now he has preferred to believe the things he imagines are real.  My general rule of thumb is that if it is normal for them to be doing something, I don't worry about it. It is normal for little kids to believe in magic and have a hard time distinguishing between real and fantasy. So I don't worry about it.  However, if it was making it hard for him to get to sleep - which it sometimes does, I  just indulge his fantasies and make up a fantastic way or reason why he doesn't need to be scared. For instance, when he was into star wars, I would put a force field around his bed and that would work. It doesn't anymore. When all else fails, that's why god invented night lights! LOL.
If your major concern is fear, then in my opinion the simplest and most effective way to help a child understand what is real and what isn't is to avoid introducing them to something they would be afraid of. We did not let our children watch anything remotely scary (which means we preview EVERYTHING before they watch it and they mostly watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) and we do not read books about anything remotely scary, which means no fairy tales and no stories with monsters. If a child does not know what a monster is or that there might be something scary under their bed, then they are not going to be afraid of it. It's all about controlling what your children are exposed to. My children are 3 1/2 and 5 and are not and have never been scared of anything imaginary. Their first introduction to the word "monster" was Cookie Monster. We did not even use the word scared around them until they were 2 or 3 (we used startled most of the time). Shockingly, our children are not afraid there are monsters under their beds or in their closets :) We are just starting to introduce more things to my 5 year old son because he now has a very stong foundation that is secure and confident. We may never let him watch Disney movies, though. Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty is scary as hell, even as an adult ;) Haha.
@Beach Bum, yes, this is precisely my concern! I was curious if children were afraid of monsters and such due to most religions reinforcing that some imaginary things are real, and if that blurs the line for kids who are already nervous and/or sensitive and/or highly imaginative.

 

You bring up a good point that films also play into it, and I totally agree with that. So many childrens' films can scare the crap out of children, especially ones from the 70's & 80's.

 

I hear you on the choice not to show Disney. Most of them have scary images. I remember being scared watching Fantasia at 4 years old.

 

Unfortunately, a lot of the children's stories today that have been made to not have scary elements tend to also be lacking in good storytelling. The films I watched as a kid were emotionally compelling and you really feel for the lead character(s). I would love to see a writer skilled enough to make very interesting plots for films without the scary images and scary concepts. It would need a hero/ine whom kids could look up to, feel emotionally attached to, and be rooting for them to overcome their obstacles.

 

I think it's so awesome that your plan worked and your children are not scared of monsters!

Every kid is different and what scares them is different. My son loves Godzilla and didn't used to be afraid of much.  However, he went thru a phase last year where he was scared of neanderthals he thought were in my bedroom. He wouldn't walk past our bedroom door on his own without a huge fuss. We couldn't convince him there was nothing to worry about. So, Godzilla was fine. Army of Darkness was fine. A book about human evolution it turned out wasn't fine. He's never been scared of monsters under the bed. Neanderthals in my bedroom are still sometimes a problem.  He's a little afraid of the dark, but he doesn't seem to have anything specific he thinks is going to happen. He was a bit concerned about Frankenstein (again from a book called Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich).  And we told him that if Frankenstein ever shows up, to give him a cookie or ask me to make him a sandwich.  That works sometimes too. I think they just need to be scared of some things and learn how to deal with that emotion. It's developmental.  We don't want to scar them, but we also need them to learn how to deal with and control their emotions. Dealing with fear of monsters is a very safe way to learn that skill.

 

Oh - and I do seem to recall a Doodlebop episode that dealt with fear that my son really liked. Basically, if you are afraid of something, find out more about it and then you won't be afraid anymore. So, if there is a sound that is scaring you, find out what is making the sound. Most times when you find out what it is that is scaring you, it isn't scary. Not knowing is scary.
How funny - my son was in love with Maleficent for a while. He thought she was beautiful. LOL he doesn't care her anymore.

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