I remember watching a documentary about a geologist who would document lava rocks and sediment at the sites of live volcanoes. He was asked by the reporter, “you must be fearless, I could never do that, I would be so scared”. The geologist responded, “Oh, I am not fearless, I am brave. I feel scared constantly, but I chose to do this every time, despite my fear.”
We, as parents and teachers have an opportunity to teach our children and teenagers about how to approach fear - not as something to be avoided, but as something that is normal and something to work through.
Fear can present itself as nervousness, anxiety, worry, bravado and a lot of other ways. It could range from the smallest of worries to the largest of fears. As parents and teachers, we have a key role to play in helping to build our children's resilience when it comes to approaching this very common and universal experience. Justin Coulson (Child Psychologist) explains it well by saying, “fear responses are normal, healthy, and to be expected… and few children are fearless.”
Some ideas that Justin Coulson gives us that are really helpful in developing our children’s resilience regarding fear (Helping Children Face Their Fears, 2022).
Take it slow. When we introduce small steps at the child’s pace these small levels of exposure can help prepare our children for the next scary step. Think about learning to ride a bike. If we did not use trainer wheels or a balance bike first, the chances of crashing or going at an uncontrollable pace might have created more fear than reduced it.
Allow your child to express their fear without recrimination. This helps to create a safe space in which they can process their fear, as well as look at it with you. Rather than let it stay undisclosed within them. This too can be a time for us, as adults, to be curious about their fear and ask open and gentle questions about what is going on.
Allow your child to have a way out. Rather than helping, force can lead to resistance. Our children will become less willing to give it a try the next time if they were forced the previous time. Instead, work hard to encourage and give choice.
Encourage bravery. You may include in your daily routine a space to share with your child times in which you were fearful but chose to be brave. Encourage your child to share their experiences too. This can normalise fear and also normalise the resilient responses to it.
Empathy rules. Empathy is the experience we can give others in which they feel understood. Justin Coulson writes that validating our children’s fears help them to feel less alone in the experience and can help them keep those fears in perspective.
Lastly, you may be noticing that fear or anxiety in your child is at a level in which you need further support. This is very normal. We encourage you to seek out further support. Resources like the Happy Families website are a helpful start. You are also welcome to contact the College, seek the wisdom of peers and friends, and professional help if needed- as a “whole-team of people may be required to help your child overcome these fears and move towards a positive experience overcoming their fear” (Helping Children Face Their Fears, 2022).
Helping Children Face Their Fears (2022). Retrieved 22 February 2022.
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