cover image Listening to Fear

Listening to Fear

Steven Marans. Holt McDougal, $15 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7604-2

""There has never been a time when children were isolated from events demonstrating that our worst nightmares can come true,"" Marans writes in this clear, concise manual to handling childhood and adolescent fears. Where there was once Hiroshima, there is now 9/11. Where there was once Mount St. Helens, there are now tsunamis. As the director of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, Marans has seen firsthand the impact that traumatic events like school shootings can have on children. But he also recognizes that many childhood fears revolve around less sensational events: car accidents, peer humiliation, a dark basement, domestic violence, moving from a crib to a ""big boy"" bed. He covers the whole spectrum of frights in this useful book, drawing on his extensive experience as a child psychologist to provide dozens of specific examples involving infants, toddlers, grade-schoolers and adolescents. Marans is especially good at demonstrating how each child's reaction to a fearful event is unique and could easily remain buried without careful listening and guidance. (For example, a toddler's fear of sleeping alone can surface in a sudden loss of toilet training.) Marans urges parents to look at their own fears first and to acknowledge the limits of their own parental powers. ""We don't know what exactly is going on inside our children minds,"" he reminds them, which is why listening, observation and play are so important. Though the book could have benefited from more direct instructions on how to engage children in constructive dialog and games-too often here all the problems are solved only when the psychologist himself swoops in-Marans has nonetheless put together a helpful primer to parenting in modern times, including an appendix on answering ""questions children ask about war and terrorism.""