12/11/2009 05:47 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne - Son Panics About Going Outside

What's your question about life as a parent? Experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to help. Send your dilemma to this address and say if you'd like to be anonymous.

A worried Mum wrote in with this question about her son:

My son is 6 years old and about two months ago became severely scared of loud airplanes. He said he wants to live and he thinks they are going to catch fire and crash, killing him.

At first he wanted to keep all windows and doors shut and would run from house to car. He has made some progress in that he will play in the garden at home, running in if he thinks he can hear a loud plane.

We can take trips out where he can go from car to building or shop when he can see where he is going to next.

He is a quiet sensitive boy who dislikes anyone being angry and shouting either at him or friends and pets. He will always notice if people look sad or lonely in pictures or in real life. He never shows any boisterous behaviour towards anyone except he will play fight with his dad who he loves spending time with.

Is there anything that we can do to help him through this problem?

Here's life coach Joanne's reply:

Dear Worried Mum

Children can get scared about all sorts of things that don't always make sense from an adult perspective. And for boys, there is often an expectation that they will be boisterous and physical, so it can be harder for the sensitive types to fit in. But I for one love these sort of boys because you can just see the fantastic people they're going to grow up into.

How lovely that your son has the emotional intelligence to pick up on how others are feeling - many full-grown men can't do this.

You say that this started two months ago, so the first thing I would do is look for anything else that has changed around this time. Sometimes sensitive children can take a while to process their experiences, so think about anything else that has happened in your lives over the last year. Sometimes we assume that children have got over something, when it is still there under the surface, waiting to emerge.

What sort of feedback do you get from his school about his behaviour there? Very often, children can behave completely differently when they're out of their parents' view.

If this phase doesn't pass and you are still worried, do talk to your GP. In terms of tools that might help, the Relax Kids range has some great products including this CD which contains relaxation exercises to help children cope with anxiety and worry. You can naturally guide him away from worry by focusing on the things he enjoys - what does he like to do best? When is he at his happiest?

You could take him to an airport or air show to see some planes close up and talk to the people who operate them, though there's a slight danger with this that this is focusing on the problem rather than the solution. But if there is an opportunity in your area to see planes close up, ask him if he'd be interested in this. Don't push him, but continue to encourage him to try new things, develop coping skills and stretch his comfort zone. He may also enjoy an activity like martial arts, where mental and physical strengths are developed together.

Good luck to you both

best wishes


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