Phobias and how not to transfer them to your children: a continuing aim

I have a phobia of frogs and toads. Not a bit scared of…but a full on phobia. A stop breathing, tingly hands, either can’t move or run for miles type phobia. I hate it. It can become consuming and it has been a feature all my life.

This time of year is the worst and unfortunately coincides with being outside more and having the doors open.

When I see one my heart rate increases, heat and pressure rush to my ears, my armpits and hands tingle and itch and I want to run. I once saw one one evening on my way up to the chicken coop. I ran and then couldn’t get back to the house because I then couldn’t move. It was like my feet had frozen to the spot and although I imagined all sorts, like my children in pain and needing me, I couldn’t move. I stood there till it got dark, hyperventilating and pathetically calling my husbands name until he eventually came up the garden and piggybacked me inside. It was horrendous. And ridiculous. It’s a small amphibian for goodness sake. But that is the problem with phobias, they don’t really make much sense. If I had had some awful experience with frogs when I was little then maybe I could associate it to that and work through it but no, nothing. It was a transferred phobia, a passed down phobia from my mum. She has the same problem.

I had made a deal with myself when I was younger before I had children that they would not inherit this. But I can see how easy it is to pass a fear to a child. They look to you for everything and especially those early years, you are their teacher. If they see you scared by something then that is clearly something to be scared of no matter how irrational it is. And once that fear is imbedded it is very hard to release it.

As you may be aware I am no way over my phobia. But I am improving. Tiny steps at a time and having children who watch and imitate my every move has helped focus me.

Noticing their anxiety helps to remind me that I need to deal with this differently. This in itself is hard because I react irrationally and without thought. If I could see one and consider my reaction it would be different but I can’t. I once opened the new animal encyclopaedia at the frog page and screamed. Of course that page then became an issue for my two children and they couldn’t look at it either. Thankfully I have a very supportive and kind husband who takes them aside to look at books with photos and drawings and/or the real thing with them. For this I am very grateful as they need to see that they are not something to be scared of.

I talk about my phobia with the children, especially after I’ve reacted to seeing one either in real life or a picture of one in a book, so they begin to understand why I react the way I do. I want them to be understanding and kind to anyone else they might come across in life who is phobic of something no matter how ‘silly’ it is.

I am hopeful that my phobia will not be passed down to the children due to the little but positive steps we are making as a family. I think the main thing is to be mindful of how your behaviour impacts on your child and what changes you can make to ensure a positive outcome to them.

And possibly therapy. Maybe therapy might help too…

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