Teaching to deal with fear
“Don’t be afraid!”
Has this dialogue really helped to stop us from feeling fear in any situation at any time at any age? It may help us suppress fear or deny it but definitely not to deal with it. But we hear ourselves and others saying this dialogue to children time and again.
Here’s something to understand.
Fear is an emotion that we are biologically programmed for through the history of our evolution. Fear has a vital role to play in survival. As such, it becomes important as a life skill to not suppress fear and to learn to deal with it. Strength and courage are not in absence of fear but they are exercised and developed while dealing with it. Let’s accept fear, our and our child’s, as a natural reaction to certain stimuli. Let’s tell ourselves and our child that it is okay to feel fear. Let’s teach ourselves and our child the life skill of what to do when afraid.
- Every time you see your child reacting to something with fear, pause. Don’t ask your child to power through it. Ask your child if they are afraid. (this helps them recognize fear and become aware of its effects on themselves)
- Ask them to take a few deep breaths, breathe with them, holding them close to you or holding their hands. (physical touch to provide sense of safety)
- Tell them that it’s alright to feel fear and that you are with them. If it’s a place they are afraid of (eg. darkness) ask them if it is okay for you to accompany them through the darkness. If it is an activity, (eg. jumping from a high place) offer them easier alternatives to try first with you, if it is a person, hold your child and interact with that person casually.
It is important:
- Not to laugh at the child for getting afraid (even if it’s endearing to watch your child feeling fear for the most harmless things)
- Not to insist that your child overcomes the fear instantly (it is a process and without interference and with help the child can do it quicker)
- Not to give your child adjectives for feeling fear
- Not to associate the most natural reaction of fear with any gender