by Vanessa-Jane Chapman
As a parent, you want your kids to grow up to be confident, happy, and successful adults, able to face the world head-on and make the most of every opportunity. But what can you do to help them overcome the fears that might hold them back? It’s worth remembering first that fear serves a purpose; it’s a natural human emotion to warn us of possible harm – a call to action to protect ourselves. However, in our modern world, fear often tends to be out of proportion to risk and can prevent us from achieving as much as we would like, and are capable of.
Here are 10 ways to help your kids develop a fearless mindset and overcome the fears that are holding them back.
1. Acknowledge the fear, don’t just dismiss it
Simply telling your child to not be afraid, or to stop being silly, isn’t an effective way to help them deal with it. You need to acknowledge it properly. Whatever you might think about the fear, it’s very real to them and they need to know that you get that. Give them the opportunity to talk about it, show that you really understand. The fear needs to be acknowledged first before you can help them to move on from it.
2. Let them know that failure IS an option
Society places such pressure on everyone not to fail, we can easily forget that failure is often a key part of the learning process. Most of the greatest inventions in history were the result of a long series of failed attempts before the final successful one was achieved. Don’t let fear of failure hold your kids back, let them know that it’s okay to fail sometimes, show them how they can learn from it in order to do better next time. Model this behavior for them, if you fail at something, show them how you turn it around into a positive.
3. Don’t pass your own fears onto them
This is one that most of us are aware of and yet, as parents, we’re probably all guilty of it at times. Realistically, you’re probably not going to be able to completely hide your fears from your kids at all times. What you can do however is talk it through with them, show them that you’re human, and you too are afraid of things that you don’t need to be afraid of at times. Show them how you deal with it and how you are working to overcome those fears.
4. Help them identify the actual fear
Often when people express a fear, they’re actually talking about something that is a step away from the fear itself – if someone says they’re afraid of flying, they’re probably not actually afraid of flying, they’re afraid of crashing. A child who says they’re afraid of monsters under the bed aren’t actually afraid of the monsters being under the bed, they’re afraid of them coming out from under the bed to hurt them. An important step in overcoming a fear is to clearly pinpoint what the actual fear is, so help them to do this and then work together to address it.
5. Show them the benefits
Sometimes a child can be so focused on the fear that they can’t see beyond it. Talk through the benefits of overcoming the fear with them, what they will gain, what it might lead on to. Ask them questions to encourage them to think of what the positive outcomes might be rather than just telling them. This will help to refocus their attention on to the other side of the fear barrier.
6. Remind them of previous times they overcame a fear
Reminding your child of a previous occasion where they were afraid to try something, but ended up enjoying it, can give them a little boost of confidence in their own abilities.
7. Avoid comparing them to others
Focus on your child, and what fears it is that they are aiming to overcome. Making continual comparisons to other kids can be unhelpful and may make your child feel inadequate.
8. Teach them to recognize valid fears
While overcoming fears is important, we need to remember that some fears are perfectly valid and healthy. If your child is afraid of jumping into a river full of crocodiles, then that’s good, that’s a fear that you don’t want them to overcome. Teach them to recognize the difference between important life-saving fears, and irrational fears, by talking through risks and consequences.
9. Show them how facing a fear can be done in small steps
Sometimes the best way to overcome a fear is to leap right into it, other times though it’s better to tackle it slowly and gently. Be guided by your child on this, if the fear is overwhelming for them, then show them how it can be approached in small stages, only moving on to the next stage when a certain comfort level is reached. Plan the stages with them ahead of time so that they are clear on what is going to happen, and don’t spring surprises on them or they won’t trust you next time.
10. Constantly remind them that they’re not alone
Probably the most important one is to remind them regularly that they don’t have to face their fears alone. If they feel secure in the knowledge that you will be there for them whatever the outcome, this will grow their fearless mindset and help give them the confidence to move forward.
Originally from London, Vanessa now lives near the coast of Kent in England, having previously also lived in Las Vegas, and up a mountain in France. She works at a university and has a Master’s Degree in Education. Vanessa is mother to two teenagers and when she is not driving them around, she likes to write, blog, read, cook, eat, sleep, and laugh.