I’m a 17-year-old girl who’s terrified of lizards, to the point where I have nightmares about them. The fear began when I was very young. How can I tackle this fear?

You mentioned that your fear began when you were young, which is a typical trait. We imagine there has been a specific traumatic memory involving a lizard somewhere along the line. Young children’s minds are extremely impressionable and being confronted with something that scares us as toddlers can leave a lasting aversion to whatever that may be. That’s where an ‘association’ is developed. It’s only when we become more mature that we become aware of how irrational these fears are, but we’re still powerless to combat them as they’re now ‘hard-wired’ into our brains. Never fear! You can learn to re-map your ‘fear-core’. Try thinking back to when your fear began – pinpointing a specific early memory that may have sparked it. This way you can start to understand how your phobia may have developed. Often, understanding the root of the issue can help you in overcoming it; by methodically working backwards to trace your fear, you’ll be better equipped to deal with it.

My son is 11 and about to start at a new school. He’s incredibly nervous and worried because he won’t know anybody at all and he is already dissolving into floods of tears at the mere mention of it. Any ways, I might be able to help make it easier for him?

Building his confidence and resilience is going to be crucial, so that he is able to bounce back if he encounters some initial bumps in the road. Giving your child age appropriate responsibilities is an excellent way to underpin that greater maturity. Practical life skills and social skills are just as important as academic skills if we are going to create rounded individuals. So, think about giving your son certain responsibilities that you expect to be fulfilled. Then, in his first few days of school, when he gets his new timetable, look at it together and work out what needs to be done by him to make sure he stays on track. It will create good lifelong organisational habits, so establishing good routines is a must. Finally, there is no substitute for talking. Acknowledge that he feels fear, reassure him it’s normal and then chat to him positively about all of the good things the future holds.