October 8 was National Face Your Fears Day, and as any parent knows, helping your children face their fears is a part of them growing up. Here are some tips on how to teach your children to be less anxious and face their fears head-on!
I am not sure what it is, but moving to Maryland has made my son fearful. Every night, as we put him to bed, he gives me thirty questions about what I am going to be doing while he is sleeping. He asks if I’m coming upstairs, if I’ll be working, how long I’ll be cleaning up, if I am going outside to let the dogs out…you name it. I think he’s afraid of being on different floors, as this is a much bigger house with multiple stories compared to the one we lived in when we were in Florida, but whatever the reason, it makes me sad because he’s never really been a fearful child.
So what can we do to help our littles face their fears? Knowing that for most of us, fear of something (or someone) will at some time come into play in our lives, and particularly when we are children feeling out our worlds, we need to make sure that first and foremost, we are a safe place for our children. We do them a disservice when we tell them their fears are irrational (though they most likely are) or “not worth worrying about,” because to our children, they are very real and valid. Be sure your child feels confident enough to voice her or his fears to you without them being considered silly, as your goal is to help them eliminate them, not hide them from you.
As your child voices his or her fears, help him or her to walk through the end of the fearful situation. For many of us, having a ‘plan’ for ‘what-if’ is what we need to eliminate our anxiety or fear of something happening. Even if that takes mental work (and it does, trust me!) don’t look at it as your child being a worst-case-scenario Sue, but rather a planner who is using effective coping strategy to feel comfortable about whatever situation they believe they may face. Sometimes, they come to the realization on their own that they worried over nothing, and that gives them a basis for dealing with future fears.
If your child wants to face his or her fear or fearful situation, ask how you may help facilitate that. Sometimes your child may want you with them; other times, she may just want to know you have her back if she needs you. In either case, allow them to trust you can and will be a calm support and place where they can feel safe and relax.
If you ever feel that your child’s fears truly are irrational to the point that they are debilitating, don’t be afraid yourself to ask for help. Ask your mom tribe for tips and if need be, talk to a professional counselor who may be able to help with some strategies. I particularly love one site, Anxiety BC’s, tips for parents who are dealing with children who have fears, as it gives specific strategies for children and parents. If you have sites or tips you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them!