Continuing with our theme of Emotional Literacy, which is important for communicating our feelings, this blog post focuses on fear.
How Fear Works
Imagine this, you are walking home on your own one rainy night, its dark and there aren’t many people in the street. Suddenly, you hear the rustling of the leaves and footsteps running towards you…your breathing gets faster, your heart races and your muscles tighten.
A second later, you realise it is a friend trying to catch up with you – phew!
Before that happened, you had a real bodily sensation (emotion) and were scared (feeling) because you thought you were in danger and your body reacted to the fight/flight response that is critical to any animal’s survival.
Fear Is A Good Emotion
Fear is the chain reaction in the brain that starts when you perceive danger and ends with a release of chemicals in your body and a tenseness in your muscles and racing of your heart. In fact, all our fears, no matter how irrational they seem, are in some sense survival based. The thing is, that part of our brain still functions as it did in caveman times even if we are not in any real danger so the fear appears real, but actually isn’t.
Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. Firstly, it is part instinct as described above, part learned behaviour and part taught. For example, I have learnt to be fearful of water after swallowing water and thinking I was drowning in the swimming pool as a child. Other fears are taught – as I was growing up, I remember being taught that if I didn’t eat all my food, the bad policeman will come. So I had an association of fear and policemen. (Don’t worry, I have overcome that). A lot of fear sets in from childhood, so here are some tips that might be helpful.
3 Ways To Help Your Children Overcome Their Fears
So how do you help your child to overcome their fears and by-pass the instinctual urge to fight or flight or freeze?
#1: Understand your child’s fears first. Young children are still learning and discovering their world. Their imaginations at this time can run wild and I have worked with children who have developed a fear or phobia about ghosts or monsters under their bed. Parents need to be aware of the age and stage of their child’s development to know what to say to them.
#2: Talking to your child, giving reassurance will definitely help them to feel better. Ask your child to describe their fears and explain why they are frightened. Acknowledge their fears and show them your concern and empathise with them so your child feels that you care and are concerned about their feelings.Whatever the fear, please listen and take your child seriously. They might be scared of a particular family member. Never ignore their fears, let them explain what makes that person fearful. What might seem like a small thing to you can escalate, leading to avoidance behaviours which can be debilitating if left unresolved and continue into adulthood.
#3: Never laugh or make fun of a child’s fears. That will not make them less fearful, instead that could increase into anxiety and develop into a phobia, which is an intense state of fear. The child may feel like you do not care or love them and this can lower their self-esteem.
“Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway”
Many years ago, I read the book, “Feel the fear, and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers. The basic premise is that people hold themselves back because they ‘believe’ that they will not be able to handle something. Her message is that we should override that fear barrier by embracing the power of our brains.
Take a look at these acronyms – which one resonates with you?
F.E.A.R – False Evidence Appearing Real
F.E.A.R – Forget Everything And Run
F.E.A.R – Face Everything And Rise
What do these make you think of? How do they inspire you to change the way you think about fear? I faced everything and rose over my fear of rides by riding the Slingshot with my daughter, Lena.
My Latest Video
Please watch my latest video here – I am talking about fear and expanding on what I have talked about in this blog post.
What’s Up Next?
Next up I will be continuing the theme of emotions. The next emotion I will focus on is happiness. If you have anything specific you would like answered please get in touch before next week and I will include it in the next blog.
Sign Up For A Free Copy Of My Upcoming Book, “No Child Is Broken”
Click here and leave your details to receive your free copy, which goes into detail about different emotions. It contains easy step-by-step lesson plans you can run through with your child to learn more about handling emotions. Thank you!