Joining Today with Claire Byrne, hosted by Philip Boucher-Hayes, Dr David Coleman shared his advice to parents on everything from children who are afraid of dogs to telling your child that you're undergoing serious treatment.
Coleman was asked about how to help a young child overcome their fear of dogs, with the parent writing in that no amount of refocusing on the cute things will help and adding that "it is really affecting all of our daily lives, and his especially".
Coleman says the parent's approach so far is bang on. "If you have an established fear of dogs in a child what you really want to be doing is use what they call graded exposure to dogs, which means the first step is to teach your child some way of calming themselves down", he says.
He says that the child can have a fight or flight response or a freezing response, so the child needs a way to "reduce the amount of adrenalin that's surging through their body".
For an older child, Coleman would recommend a breathing exercise, but for younger children they need the parent to model a calm response for them. Physical comfort is helpful too.
"Perhaps in an ideal world if you have a friend who has a really placid dog or a well-trained dog", it can help to introduce the child to it. He says to be aware that the dog might react to a nervous child, too. "If the dog picks up that the person coming towards them is highly anxious that'll set the dog off in some situations."
"It's still not a bad thing to find a really placid, nice dog. Not a little yappy puppy. A dog that you know will stay sitting if it's been told by its owner."
As for whether this is always the way you should deal with a fear of dogs in your child, Coleman says keeping it at a distance is still effective. "In most situations most dog owners are really responsible and they do keep their dog on a lead, so you can take a bit of a wide berth if you're walking along a path.
"Dogs are everywhere, so every social occasion that you go to that's in a public place will probably have somebody else's dog there. I think it is about learning that not necessarily all dogs are barky, yappy and potentially dangerous."
Of course, some dogs are potentially dangerous, he says. "Having a little bit of anxiety is no bad thing because it keeps that child as they grow up a little bit wary of coming close to a dog that mightn't be friendly."