Q. My ten year old is afraid of everything. She spends sleepless nights thinking about scary thoughts. She's afraid of fires and kidnappers. She's afraid of the dark and she's afraid of being left alone. On some nights she comes hurtling out of her room and leaping into my bed, as a result of a nightmare she had. Is this normal? What can I do to help her deal with her fears?

A. Fear is a common experience to many children. In fact, most children go through a period in their lives when fears disturb their peace of mind. This happens when their imagination begins to develop, while they don't yet have the tools with which to neutralize and distinguish between reality and imagination.

Children may also begin having frightening thoughts after experiencing or even hearing about a shocking event such as a kidnapping in the neighborhood. Those kinds of fears are a normal reaction to something real that has happened. It may take some children longer than others to feel safe again and to rebuild a sense of safety, but it does happen. More often than not, as children grow older, their fears gradually decrease and eventually disappear. There are many ways that parents can help their child to overcome their fears:

Facing the fear. The big power of fear is that it tries to influence you not to go into it, to push it away, and to fight it. Explain to your child that the best way to calm down a fear is to do the exact thing that the fear tells you not to do: think about it. When children do face their fears, the fear loses its grip on them.

Listen to your child. Having your child talk about her fears is a good way to face the fear. Often, just by exploring their fears, without anyone looking for a solution, it will allow the fear to evaporate into nothingness. Talking also helps to bring the hidden fears out of the darkness and into the open which enables the child to deal with them better.

Draw the fear. Sit down with your child and ask her to draw her fear on a piece of paper. Giving the fear a shape and color removes the mystique and helps the child get a handle on them.

Talk about G‑d. Communicate to your child that G‑d is with her and protects her at all times. A very comforting verse is this one: Hinei lo yanum velo yishon Shomer Yisrael, Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not sleep nor slumber.

Use relaxation techniques. Teach your child to relax her body as she relaxes her mind. She can gradually tighten and loosen her muscles from head to toe promoting a relaxed state. Show her as well, how she can use the same imagination that makes her scared, to make her relaxed. Help her imagine vivid visions of happy occasions, such as her birthday party, and to peacefully allow those images to pass over her as though she were watching a movie. She can also focus her mind on specific scenes that she finds relaxing, like twinkling stars or a peaceful pond – perhaps graced by a beautiful swan; gushing waterfalls, the sound of the water streaming down a slope, the warmth of the sun on her face, as she takes a deep breath and allows herself to relax.

Night lamp and tape recorder. At night when it is dark, switching on a night light can help your child avoid added scary images. During the day, when alone, a tape recorder with some music or story telling, may help serve as a companion of sorts.

Monitor input content. Keep your child from watching or reading frightening shows and story books with a lot of terror or violence. Choose books with inspirational, uplifting stories and stories about children conquering their fears.

Have the child repeat a calming sentence or verse over and over again. Any sentence could work, for instance, "I am safe at all times." Or, "He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways." (Psalms 91:11) You can have your child think about the words and their meaning while saying them.

On the same note. Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, writes that when we clear our minds of all other thoughts and focus only on the words ein oid milvado, there is none other than G‑d, then all dangers disappear.

If your child's fears persist and interfere with his daily activities you might like to seek professional help from a child psychologist.