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Fear - friend or foe?

Fear is something that we have all experienced at some point in our lives, countless times, in various situations. It is an uncomfortable feeling at best and paralysing and debilitating at worst.

As parents, we want to wrap our children up and protect them from the world and all the negative emotions that we ourselves don’t enjoy experiencing. However, can we ever live a life where we avoid experiencing fear? I don’t believe the answer is yes. If that is the case and experiencing fear is inevitable, then are we doing our children a disservice by not preparing them.

In her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers gives the example of a parent sending their children off for a day at school. ‘Take care’, ‘be careful’, ‘watch how you go’ are almost automatic things that we say. But what are we teaching our children? You may not be safe? There may be danger? You may not be ok? You may not be able to handle this? Without intending to, we are teaching our children to entertain negative thoughts. How about if our send-off message was – ‘take a responsible risk’, ‘find humour in everything that you can’, ‘respond with wonderment and awe’, ‘enjoy the challenge’. We need to reset the message. Teach our children that mistakes will be made, challenges will be experienced, that fear will be experienced BUT it isn’t necessarily bad. Mistakes are opportunities, mistakes challenge us, and fear pushes us out of our comfort zone.

boy hiding behind a chair

Children can experience fear for a variety of reasons, in a variety of situations.

  • Fear of separating from parents.
  • Fear of making mistakes.
  • Fear surrounding making or losing friendships.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of disapproval.

Perhaps these may not be relevant to your child or perhaps your child experiences all of these and more. Their internal voice is saying ‘you can’t cope’. The reality is, they can and they will. It may not be easy. It may be uncomfortable, even painful, but they will cope. And what’s more, if they steer into the fear, they will learn, grow and develop confidence.

What can we do as parents?

  • Discuss your emotions with your child. Share with them times when you felt fear, but you steered into it. ‘I was really scared to start my new job, but I knew that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass. I felt scared, but I did it anyway and I am so glad that I did…’
  • Contain their emotions. Let them tell you how they feel without needing to ‘fix’ it. Ask them where in their body they are experiencing the fear, what thoughts they are having etc. Validate their emotions and empathise with them.
  • Share your mistakes/failures with your children. ‘I tried to play tennis and I wasn’t very good. I know if I persist, I will get better. But it is ok that I am not very good yet. I am good at other things.’
  • Praise your child for their effort rather than the outcome. The finished product is not the only important part of the activity.
  • Enjoy challenges with your child. Try something new with them. Share the process of making mistakes, feeling fear, and doing it anyway.

At Role Models, our courses are designed with a specific focus on teaching children how to navigate the inevitable challenges they will face and how they can respond in a way that will enable them to thrive.

Our Resilience Courses and Sessions are designed to teach children how to face challenges, handle mistakes, deal with adversity and thrive in an ever changing world. For more information about our online courses click here, our offline courses click here and our sessions click here.

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