All children experience fear and all parents experience fear, as well. A main challenge I hear from parents is how to listen to their fearful child without their own fears obstructing them from being the supportive parent their child needs.
To start helping guide your child through fear, know that fear is a normal response to new experiences.
As an adult, you 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. They are real for them and getting through them together is an opportunity to strengthen their resiliency and resourcefulness as well as a time to strengthen your bond with them.
If your child has repeating fears and you think they are turning into repeating anxiety, take your child to a specialist for evaluation and support. You can refer to my article, Anxiety and the Importance of Listening, for more information and resources about anxiety.
7 Tips for Supporting Your Fearful Child
- Find a support person you can vent your fears to so you are not letting your fears get in the way of being emotionally available for your child.
- Study about Communication Blocks and empathetic responses so you’ll respond effectively to allow your child to keep expressing themselves rather than shutting down.
- Be with your child in the moment. Hold their hand or put an arm around them if this is helpful for them to feel secure and comforted.
- 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, later when they are calm, you can discuss and 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 put her face in the water. We never pushed her nor kept her from learning how to swim. We gave her time to overcome her fear.
- Don’t try to take away your child’s suffering through the communication block called placating. 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 to discuss the fear and manage the fear so it is a source of growth, rather than a roadblock.
©2018 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parenting Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at www.bridges2understanding.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute Bridges 2 Clarity session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!