Children learn a lot of behaviours by imitating others—particularly the important adults in their lives. This can be a problem if you’re a parent with a phobia. As much as you might try to cover up your fears, children are more observant than we give them credit for, and they can pick up on minor changes in mood or body language.
It is for this reason that many phobias are socially learned. When we perceive influential people having negative reactions to certain stimuli, we interpret those things to be a threat to our wellbeing. As a result, the same stimuli can become triggers for us, with or without the presence of the influential figure.
If you’re worried about passing your emetophobia on to your children, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening. Let’s take a look at 3 of them…
1. Be conscious of your reactions
You’re probably all too aware of how you feel when your emetophobia is triggered. However, for the sake of your child, it’s time to start focusing on how your reactions could be interpreted by others.
For example, while you might think you’re covering up the fact that your heart is pounding and your brain is telling you to run from the situation, your child may be wondering why your body has gone stiff and you’re suddenly very quiet or moody. Kids can tell when you are uncomfortable, so it’s necessary to start adjusting your reactions accordingly.
Don’t model fear or avoidance
Now, if changing your fear response was easy, you wouldn’t have a phobia in the first place. Even those with severe emetophobia, however, can learn how to cope better with triggers.
Start by limiting the extreme reactions like shock, terror and avoidance. That’s right, even modelling fear responses like avoidance is dangerous, because it teaches your child that they can run away rather than facing anything that makes them uncomfortable.
When your phobia is triggered, try to gain control of your response and find something to distract your mind. You’ll learn more about how to do this in step 2.
Pro tip: If your phobia is so severe that you are not equipped to face triggers yet, find another adult that you trust who can display healthy responses to emetophobia triggers in front of your child.
2. Master coping mechanisms
As you learn more about your reactions and how they are perceived, you can begin the real work to improve them. There are many self-help strategies you can learn that will help you on this quest.
Controlling your breathing is a great place to start. As soon as you feel your anxiety levels rising, focus on your breath: inhale deeply through your nose and slowly exhale out of your mouth.
Anxiety makes both our heart rate and breathing speed up, but slowing down the latter can significantly ease physical stress reactions. The added bonus of this approach is that focusing on your breath will help to distract you from whatever has triggered your phobia.
Further coping mechanisms you can try include:
- Counting 10 objects that are in the room
- Picking up an object and focusing on its features: is it soft or hard? Cold or warm? Rough or soft?
- Putting on your favourite song and mouthing the lyrics
- Listing 6 things you need to do that day
Pro tip: If your child witnesses you doing relaxation exercises and seems confused, talk to them about what you’re doing and why. You’re modelling healthy coping strategies so there’s nothing to hide!
3. Try therapy
You may have toyed with the idea of getting therapy in the past, but taking the step of actually finding a therapist and booking an appointment can feel like a lot of work. In the end, though, therapy is the best treatment for phobias. Use your child as motivation to get the support you need—by helping yourself, you’ll also be improving their life.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start thinking about what would be important to you in a therapist. First up, you’ll want to look for somebody who has experience in treating phobias. Next, you should decide where you want the therapy to take place. If you’re a parent, online therapy is a great option as it cuts out travel time and is easier to fit into a busy schedule.
Pro tip: Starting with a single session of therapy gives you the opportunity to try this method without making any big commitments in terms of time or money. Head to our sister site ManageMinds to book a single appointment.
Avoid passing emetophobia on to your child
Being a parent is tough, even for those not dealing with a phobia. As you navigate the journey of trying to overcome your fears to prevent passing them onto your child, be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can.
Taking these steps to better yourself is not easy, but the results are so worth it.
Worried about how you’ll cope when your child gets sick? Take a look at our guide on how to deal with sick loved ones.