Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Unfounded Fears

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: I have an eight-year-old stepson who's staying with us for the month. He seems to have unreasonable fears that are frustrating my husband and me. Even though he begs to go to the beach, he won't go in the water because he is terrified that he is going to be stung by jellyfish and stingrays. He stomps away from the water and complains all the time. No matter where we take him, there are major complaints. What can we do?

A: Could your stepson be doing this in order to get your attention? Think about how regularly (or irregularly) he sees his dad and consider whether his behaviors might be related to missing his dad and you. Try to imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes and staying with you for only a month.

When your stepson begins to whine and complain, try to not let him push your buttons. Be very calm with him and don't overreact to his complaints. Ignore the negative things he says as much as possible while giving him lots of attention when he is speaking and behaving appropriately.

Since there is actually no way to guarantee your stepson that there will be no jellyfish in the water at the beach, this fear is not totally unreasonable. Reassure him that while you are all in the water, you will keep watch for any jellyfish and try to make sure that he stays away from them.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks