Common Childhood Fears:
What's Normal and What's Abnormal?
Fears typically start to emerge in earnest around age 2, and usually start to abate at around age 6 or 7, at which time normal early childhood fears are replaced by more realistic anxieties about life in general.
Typical preschool and early childhood fears
It's quite common for preschoolers to go through phases in which they periodically become afraid of different things. The most common fears are over monsters or the dark or clowns or people in costume, but they can also come up with some rather unique (and irrational) fears that leave parents scratching their head.
These anxieties arise as children become more aware of different things around them, but are still young enough that they hold many flawed assumptions and magical beliefs about the world. "A preschooler's imagination is really blossoming, and he can often concoct some scary explanations for things that he's not sure about," says Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., author of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety. (Hester, 2013, p. 98)
Normal fears among elementary school children
School age kids tend to worry more about things like humiliation at school, car accidents, the potential for nuclear war, and other realistic concerns. These fears are frequently exaggerated and overblown, but they're based on conceivable threats.
Around one-third of school-age children will experience fears that reoccur, though adults may not always be aware of these fears. Older kids often feel embarrassed about their anxieties and so they are reluctant to share their feelings with others.
When do a child's fears become a problem?
Generally speaking, the lipnus test to distinguish between normal childhood fears that a child is likely to outgrow and something more serious is the degree to which a fear affects a child's life and impedes their functioning.