Isn’t it ironic that one of our worst fears as parents is: why is my child fearful?
Babies are born with two fears:
- a fear of falling
- a fear of loud noises
The other fears are learned behaviours from their environment. Our own parenting contributes significantly to the fears our children suppress or express. To gauge our own fear level, we firstly need to look at the relationship we have with ourselves.
Parents who have a good relationship with them selves are generally happy, positive, social, interesting and are risk-takers. When we have a good relationship with ourselves, we tend to be solution-focused rather than problem-focused. We learn from set-backs and rise to challenges. This is the foundation for positive self concept, a foundation that can detach from worries, judgement or fear of failure.
If you can model strength through action and confidence during the highs and lows, so too will your children!
How you respond and react to difficult challenges and perceived failures is the best indicator as to how your children will. Are you anxious, nervous, and procrastinate? Or do you see opportunities when others can’t? If fear is learnt, it is incredibly beneficial to our children that we are living the best possible version of ourselves.
We don’t want to make life perfect for our children, after all perfection is just a perception. We do not need to protect or shelter them from making mistakes or coming second, third or last, we just need to support them and let them know that no matter what they try to achieve, no matter the results they get (good or bad), they are always worthy of love. This then strengthens their sense of belonging.
When your children feel loved for who they are, not who they think they should be for others, including their parents, this strong sense of love and belonging frees your child up to take action and take risks. This freedom flows into confidence that will help trying new experiences or challenges more automatic.
It is our role as parents to sit back and allow this process to happen, without the need to control or save them, as much as instinctively we may want to. As your children’s confidence build, and they engage in new experiences, it is important we focus on the journey, as this is usually the most valuable experience of all. This is a great chance to have quality discussions and questions with your child:
- What did you learn about yourself?
- What could have been done differently?
- How could you have been better?
- What did you do really well?
Discussions such as these help your child to grow and become more aware diminishing fear. What we focus on is what we get, so help your child to focus on his/her strengths, not weaknesses, and build on these strengths. Things that your child has done well in the past, or challenges they have tried, are evidence of what they can do well. In the future, remind and share past triumphs with them.
Gratitude is extremely beneficial when dealing with fear. These two emotions share the same neural pathway – you cannot have one without the other. When you feel gratitude, it is impossible to feel fear at the same time. You can encourage your child from as young as four to have gratitude for the simplest things, for eg:
- Their healthy strong body
- Their creative talent
- Their siblings who love and look out for them
- Their house or location where they live
- Their friends, teachers etc.
You can start a journal together and fill up the gratitude bank. You will notice how good this feels!
Finally, try not to over-think parenting. Just enjoy modelling action and support your child in their endeavours.