Helping children overcome fear

Three things we can teach kids about fear

The child in my office was in tears.  Here was her story:  She was selected to give the pledge to the flag on the morning news station at school. This is a great honor and she was excited until the morning of the show, when  she suddenly became paralyzed with fear and begged her teacher to let her drop out. Her teacher reassured her, encouraged her and finally, selected another student to present the pledge. The child’s initial relief turned to great disappointment and tears when her replacement returned to class wearing the special badge which announced to the world that she was a “Star Student” for the day. Her fear had resulted in a huge disappointment.

It was a hard lesson learned and one that many of us as adults have to learn as well.  Fear and lack of confidence can keep us from not only accomplishing our goals but also from experiencing exciting and fulfilling moments in our lives. When we run from experiences that make us nervous instead of facing the challenge, the initial relief can turn to distress and disappointment.

What we can teach kids about fear:

Fear can sometimes be useful: When a child is afraid of lightning and learns to come inside during a storm, he is making a healthy decision. When storms cause a child to cower under the bed, he is responding with unnecessary fear and actions. Teach them the difference.

Fear is driven by our thoughts: A child can believe, “Lightning is dangerous but I am safe inside.” Or they can believe, “Lightning is dangerous and I am never safe from it.” Teach children to be aware of their thoughts and explore their inner dialogue. Then help them replace their thoughts with ones that are more reasonable and that serve them better. Teach children that they are in control and ultimately have the power to decide whether or not to be afraid.

Fear can be a great teacher: Rather than focusing on the regrets over a lost opportunity, children can learn to prepare for events in the future.  Courage is not the absence of fear but the choice to act despite fears. Everyone feels afraid sometimes but the rewards of pushing through it are often well worth the effort. Teach children to seize the opportunity, face the fear and do it anyway.

Have you faced a similar situation in your life where fear had to be faced?  What did you do?  What did you learn? How do you help children overcome anxiety and fear? I’d love to hear in the comments section.

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