DS6 scared of fire. How can I help?

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Post  Mon, Mar 25 2019, 10:10 pm
My son is 6 years old and has recently developed a fear of fire. It's not completely new, but has worsened in the last month. He is afraid of the smoke alarm going off. The alarm is really loud. Problem is that my apartment has a pretty sensitive smoke alarm system and burning my hafrashas challah is a risk.

I (think I) made a mistake of telling him that electricity is related to fire. He knows that a fire can start at any time even if I am not cooking or have any real fire in the house. He tells me that he thinks about scary scenarios involving fires before he goes to sleep (he calls them bad dreams, but this is before he actually falls asleep), and I obviously encourage him to redirect his thoughts to happy exciting thoughts.

I wish I could help him. He is very logical and smart for his age.

I have an idea which is either good or terrible. I have heard of exposure therapy and I'm wondering if purposely letting the smoke alarm go off would be helpful.

My other kids don't like the smoke alarm, but I think that it is because of how loud it is. Not because they understand how scary a fire can be.

I can't think of any specific scary fire experience which started this whole thing.
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Post  Mon, Mar 25 2019, 10:22 pm
No, that would not be exposure therapy! Exposure therapy involves exposing the person to a tolerable amount, which slowly increases. Plus he is given the tools to manage his anxiety with each experience. What you're suggesting sounds like it would be very traumatic for him.

Are you open to working with a therapist? He doesn't have to go, you can be the one actually doing the work, under a therapists guidance.

I would sit down with him and try to understand what specifically he is afraid of. There must be some specific aspects of fire that he finds especially scary. They may or may not be accurate or scientifically correct. Maybe he thinks electrical fires happen spontaneously and frequently. Then you can have a talk about how your family protects itself from dangerous situations like fires. Remind him where you have smoke alarms, how to escape from each room, and what your family's escape plan is in case of fire. Take all of his questions and concerns seriously, and answer honestly.
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Post  Mon, Mar 25 2019, 10:34 pm
My local fire dept was /is friendly to kids
Maybe you can take him to the fire station to learn more about fires
Plan an escape route
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Post  Mon, Mar 25 2019, 11:12 pm
There is a book for written by a therapist geared towards helping kids overcome their anxiety through a “therapy” plan executed by the parents. It helped my child a lot. It’s called What to do when you worry too much.
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Post  Mon, Mar 25 2019, 11:37 pm
Help him feel more in control by discussing and reading books about how to act in case of a fire. Usually the more kids know the less scary something is. Frankly no matter how much I know about fire safety I still find the thought scary as heck but I think kids are a little easier to convince that things are going to be OK.
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Post  Tue, Mar 26 2019, 7:41 am
This is a bit different but we once had a fire in our building on the bottom floor (we live on the top) and we had to evacuate. Everything was fine and the fire dept was there but my 7-yr. old daughter was traumatized (because she didn't understand that everything was under control) and saw the raging fire in the first floor apt. For days, she was crying and following me around from room to room. I took her to a trauma therapist (who did SE -somatic engineering) and it was amazing. One session and it was like she never happened - she was back to normal.
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Post  Tue, Mar 26 2019, 7:46 am
I want to add that although my story is more extreme than your case, I think it might be helpful in realizing that sometimes trauma or anxiety is not logical and talking doesn't help since it's based in the body or emotions. Before I took my daughter to a therapist, I, of course, tried talking to her and having her talk about what happened. We even wrote it down together on the computer. None of this helped at all. The body/emotion based therapy is what did it. So your case probably doesn't warrant a visit to a therapist but maybe you can read up about body or emotion based exercises for anxiety/phobias.
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Post  Tue, Mar 26 2019, 9:19 am
Does your family have a fire exit plan, and you you discuss it regularly?

Each room of the house should have a plan. You should have a meeting place outside the building. You should know about not opening doors, and putting a towel or blanket under the gap, staying low to the ground to avoid smoke, and things like that.

Your local fire department can give you specific guidelines, or you can find them online. Education is half the way to conquering fear.

I also like the idea of therapy/somatic, etc. but you need to have a plan for everything as well. Even if you live in a high rise, there are things you can do to protect yourself and buy some precious minutes until help arrives.
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Post  Tue, Mar 26 2019, 10:54 am
My six year old had anxiety about something else. Since we were working with a therapist anyway she was able to help us with this. Two of the things we did was:
1-She asked him what relaxing thing he enjoys going to and he said he loves the beach. She gave him a beach picture to hang near his bed and when he was in bed feeling anxious we would look at the picture and go to that safe place by talking about the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand etc.
2- she taught him deep breathing: we put stuffed animals on our stomach while laying in the floor and slowly breathed in and out while watching the animals move up and down to the rythm of our breaths.
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