Claustrophobia is a common childhood fear. In fact, almost all children have anxiety about being squished and smothered or confined in small places. If you have a youngster who is especially fearful, these tips can help them learn to better manage such fears.

Dealing with claustrophobia in children
If you know a child is claustrophobic, don’t tease them by subjecting them to situations that have them panicking. This will tend to reinforce the fear rather than diminish it.

Also use language that helps them reinterpret such sensations. Use words like cozy and comfy to describe tight spaces, or tell children to imagine the situation like a big bear hug.

Using exposure therapy to treat claustrophobia in children

  1. While they are standing, wrap children inside a large blanket to get them accustomed to the sensation of being encompassed and having their movement restricted.
  2. These next exposure therapy sessions will help kids get accustomed to the sensation of being trapped or squished. Start by having them lay down on the sofa. Then remove a large cushion from another sofa and set it on top of them. Tell them that you’re going to slowly push down, but that if it gets to be too much they can yell stop at any time and you’ll lift it up again.

Press down with more and more pressure, eventually working up to sitting on the cushion with them lying underneath. Then work up to longer and longer periods like this. Make it a game to see if they can break their old record. The key to this exercise is control. By forming an agreement to instantly get up when they tell you to, you’re giving a child control over the situation. The more accustomed they become to this sensation in therapy sessions, the better they’ll tolerate claustrophobia in real world experiences.

  1. This technique can also be conducted with a box. Get a box big enough to fit a child (sitting or standing) and then follow the same technique, closing the lid on them and agreeing to get them out whenever they yell stop.