What are typical fears?

Birth – 6 months

Loud noises, loss of physical support, rapid position changes, rapidly approaching unfamiliar objects

7-12 months

Strangers, looming objects, sudden confrontation by unexpected objects and unfamiliar people

1-5 years

Strangers, storms, animals, the dark, separation from parents, objects, machines, loud noises, the toilet, monsters, ghosts, insects, bodily harm

6-12 years

Supernatural beings, bodily injury, disease (AIDS, cancer), burglars, staying alone, failure, criticism, punishment

12-18 years

Tests and exams in school, school performance, bodily injury, appearance, peer scrutiny, athletic performance, social embarrassment


Children express fears by crying, nervousness, freezing, clinging to an adult, or avoiding what they fear, and do not often recognize that their fears are excessive or irrational, and rarely report discomfort about them. If children overcome their developmental fears, they mature and gain self-confidence.

Adolescents usually understand that their fears aren’t logical. Their fears are usually focused on specific objects or situations, last a while and cause a series of physical manifestations, such as tachycardia, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc.


When should I be concerned about a student’s fears?

Although fears, in general, are common, they should not result in worries that are uncontrollable or prevent students from participating in school or other activities they would otherwise enjoy. For instance, it is typical for a child to be somewhat fearful of climbing to the top of a jungle gym, but it is concerning if the child avoids playgrounds or recess altogether. Likewise, it is typical for a young child to have difficulty entering a new school on the first day, but it is concerning when the student refuses to enter the school for several days or more. It is also typical for an adolescent to fear some social situations with peers they don't know yet; however, it is not typical for that to prevent them from participating in social activities.


What can I do to help a student with excessive fears?

Even though not all types of fear may not emerge in the classroom, some fears may prevent a student from taking part in classroom activities. So, once an excessive fear is known, there are a few things that can be helpful for a teacher to do.

  • Talk about it. Teachers may calmly speak with a student to learn more about what he or she is experiencing. Let the student know that you want to acknowledge and understand what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Listen to what your child says. While some fears can be unrealistic for adults, they are real for children. So, before teachers bring any solutions, they can try to listen and understand what is distressing them and acknowledge their fear.
  • Demonstrate problem solving. Without disregarding a student's point of view, teachers may try helping them to think about factual reasons why they may be worrying, and then help them to find realistic ways to worry less.
  • Communicate concerns to the student’s caregivers. If a student has been showing excessive fears that seem to be interfering with daily activities, a teacher should set up a meeting with the student’s caregivers.
  • Speak with a school mental health professional. After speaking with a student’s caregiver, teachers may also consult with a school mental health professional to determine if further support or evaluation is needed.
  • Seek support. With a caregiver’s permission, teachers may consult other professionals who specialize in helping children with emotional difficulties.

Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.

The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).

Fears that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those faced by other children the same age, and that negatively interfere with classroom daily activities may indicate the possibility of Specific Phobia.


Where to find more information

Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Specific Phobia can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].

If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.

You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.



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