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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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My 11 year old daughter has acute fear issues

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My 11 year old daughter has acute fear issues and repeat night terrors and I believe it is all my fault. I am a rape survivor...a brutal rape that rendered me badly injured...infertile and an emotional mess. I was young when the assault occurred (16) but had various health problems from it. My daughter is an invitro child.(the only way I could conceive) She has picked up on my daily fears and has a difficult time due to it. Chronic thumb sucking..nervous behavior..terrors.. She sleeps with me even though I am married (he is a FedEx pilot and is away often) Help....


My biggest fear is she is becoming a child who lives life cautiously...fearfully.  It doesnt help matters that I am a trauma nurse who has worked in an ER and on a flight team for many years so I already approach life with all that baggage..I want my child to have a normal childhood and not have such fears..especially of men.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.


No matter how you conduct your life, your child is going to develop some fears. It is a fact of life. And that is ok. But you are the survivor of a trauma, which is going to affect your child more intensely. Much like anyone who survives a trauma whether it is a car accident, abuse or war, the family is affected by what happened.


It is understandable that you want to minimize the effect on your child. And help her to learn that while it is ok to be afraid of some things, being fearful all the time is not what you want.


Children react to trauma according to their personalities, which includes their coping mechanisms. Expose 3 children to a traumatic situation, and you will get 3 different reactions. They may have some of the same symptoms, but the overall effect will be different. Your daughter may just tend to lean more towards being anxious. That is why she may be more affected than another child might.


Some of the things you can do to help her overcome her fear and learn better coping mechanisms take some work but they are very possible.


The first step is to reassure your daughter. This will need to be consistent, but especially when she overhears something about your situation or is exposed otherwise. Tell her that you are handling it and that the doctors or others involved are good at what they do and can help. She needs to know that the adults in her world are caring and can handle the situation.


The second step is to make sure your daughter knows that this is your issue and not about what can happen to her. Though bad assaults do happen, for the most part they are rare. What happened to you was bad but it does not happen to every teenage girl.


The third step is to give her some power. Encourage her to take proactive steps in being strong with her skills and being assertive. For example, let her take karate or some other sport that helps her feel strong. Let her see other survivors of trauma that have overcome and made good lives for themselves. You can do this through personal meetings, books and movies.


The fourth is to let her express herself. Let her talk about her deepest fears and reassure her that she is normal in her feelings. Keep the lines of communication open so she feels free to talk about her feelings anytime.


Keep her in therapy. She needs to have a therapist help her through finding new ways to replace or eliminate her learned behaviors with thumb sucking and feeling nervous. She needs to replace these behaviors with healthier and more productive behaviors. If you need to find a new therapist, try asking her doctor for a referral.


With time, your daughter should be able to grow out of most of her fears. As her brain continues to develop, she will mature and realize through reasoning that some of her fears are not based in fact and she will be able to cope better.


I hope this has helped you,





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