Interview With Jane Annunziata About Sometimes I'm Scared
Interviewer [female voice]: Why did you write Sometimes I'm Scared and how is it helpful to kids?
Jane Annunziata: We wrote that book because we find so many children who have fears and who feel afraid. Of course, we all feel afraid sometimes, children and adults. But children, because they're little and they're just getting to know the world, often are coping with more normal fears, and we just wanted to find a way to help them with these typical developmental fears that they may have.
Interviewer: What are some of the ways that you've heard of therapists using this book?
Jane Annunziata: I think therapists and parents use the book to help children cope with the fears. As we always say, everybody has feelings, everybody has problems, everybody can be afraid of something sometimes. The most important thing is, how do you manage the feeling? How do you manage, in this case, the fear? And the book has lots of practical techniques for coping with fears. And so, I think therapists and parents particularly use those techniques to give children a way to manage their anxiety when they feel it.
Interviewer: Why do kids get scared?
Jane Annunziata: Well, some of it is just a very common part of their development, as I say. They're young, they're not familiar with the world, so as they grow, they confront more and more things. And they live in the world, and sometimes things are frightening to them. Sometimes, frankly, I think it's their little size. If you're a little kid and you come up against a big barking dog, that's going to be a frightening thing to you. Whereas for us as adults, we've seen many, many, many frightening dogs, or we've experienced many loud noises or bad storms. So your experience base often gives you a way to cope. But the child, just by definition of his age, doesn't have that kind of experience base. And so, they're little and they're inexperienced, and things are much more frightening to them.
Also, children — and one of the things we always hear about children is what great imaginations they have, and that's a wonderful thing and it contributes to the creative process — but their imaginations, as we say in the book, can also turn safe things into scary things. And because they have such vivid imaginations, it's very easy to imagine that the shadow in the room is really a monster or a loud noise is something dangerous, where we would hear the loud noise and say, "Oh, must be thunder," or something very basic.
Interviewer: What are normal fears within typical child development?
Jane Annunziata: There are many normal fears as children grow. And again, that's part of why we wrote the book, because there are so many of them. There are fears of the dark. There are fears of large animals, especially those that growl or bark. There are fears of a monster in their bedroom. There are fears that someone might break into their house. With real little ones, three, maybe under three, some of them are afraid of the vacuum because it seems so big and loud and it sucks things up, you know. There are very many common fears.
Interviewer: Generally speaking, under what circumstances should parents seek therapy for their child?
Jane Annunziata: In general, around — I assume you're asking around this particular question with fears — you want to seek therapy when the fear has lasted a fairly long time. We often say to parents we have a three-week rule. That if something has gone on for about three weeks, that's a time to think about seeking help.
We would suggest that parents seek help when it is really interfering with the child's life. For some children, if they're so afraid that an animal might come bounding into the yard, that they won't go out and play so they're not getting exercise, they're not getting fresh air, and that would be really interfering with their lives and, of course, their peer relationships too, if they can't go outside and play. So, when it lasts more than three weeks, when it interferes with their living a normal, healthy life, would be two big factors.
Another factor is when the child seems to be under a great amount of distress. If the child can't sleep at night because she's so concerned that a monster is going to come out and attack her or someone is going to break into the house, then that becomes incapacitating, of course. The child who can't sleep, then can't function well. And the child who can't sleep also has parents who can't sleep, so it affects the quality of their lives as well. So, when it interferes with daily functioning in more than a passing way, I would say it's time to seek help.