One thing that both children and parents experience alike, is fear.
A main challenge I hear from parents is how to listen to their fearful child without their own fears preventing them from being the supportive parent their child needs.
Fear Is Normal
To begin the process of guiding your child through fear, be aware that fear is a normal response to new experiences.
As an adult, you likely have years of experiences confronting new and challenging situations and getting through them successfully.
Your child does not.
Therefore, never belittle or downplay your child’s fears. Those feelings are very real for them.
Getting through them together is an opportunity to strengthen their resiliency and resourcefulness as well as a time to strengthen your bond with them.
7 Tips for Supporting Your Fearful Child
- Find a support person you can vent your fears to so you aren’t letting them get in the way of you being emotionally available for your child.
- Develop your knowledge around Communication Blocks and empathetic responses which will allow you to respond effectively to your child, and encourage them to keep expressing themselves (rather than shut down).
- Be with your child in the moment. Hold their hand or put an arm around them if this helps them to feel comforted and secure.
- Don’t be too involved. You are not the one feeling their fear so it’s not up to you to tell them how to solve their problems. Instead, speak to them later on and calmly discuss the problem to find solutions together.
- Get moving. Physical activity can be calming during stressful times. You can discuss this possible solution with your child during problem-solving sessions.
- Don’t avoid activities. If your child is afraid of an activity, such as swimming, ease them in gradually. It took my daughter quite a while before she would dare go under water. We never pushed her nor kept her from learning how to swim. We gave her time to overcome her fear.
- Avoid placating. It is a common communication block that parents use to “take away” their child’s suffering. Your children need to know that they can handle emotionally difficult times and come out feeling successful and proud in the end.
Let your child know that fear is normal and that we don’t want to let our fears control our actions.
Share some of your own fears that you’ve overcome.
Tell them to expect those feelings with the unknown and work together to use logic, discussing and managing the fear so it is a source of growth, rather than a roadblock.
You should keep in mind however, that If your child suffers from ongoing and repetitive fears, and you are concerned they are turning into persistent anxiety, please take your child to a specialist for evaluation and support.