A Parent’s Fear
When it comes to children, we often hear the comparison phrases: “Like father, like son” or “She takes after her mother.” While handing down button noses or rosy cheeks can seem cute and whimsical, passing on parental fears to children can be a real concern. How can we keep our kids worry free and avoid pressing our personal fears and anxieties onto our kids? Here are a few ways to prevent this:
- Show your child a model adult. Most fears come from an experience we had in our own childhood (i.e. some adults are afraid of dogs because they were bitten as children). Make a point to have other adults around your child that do not share your fears. This will show the child that they do not have to be afraid of something simply because their parent may be. Let them make up their own mind about what will give them a fright.
- Use bedtime stories. Find stories about characters that overcome situations or obstacles that can cause someone to be scared or upset. You will want to keep these stories light and make sure there are some life lessons that go along with the book as well. These are great teaching moments for you and your child.
- Avoid overusing “Be careful.” This statement, when overused or used improperly, can instill fear into a child. It tells kids that they should avoid taking risks, trying new things, or making mistakes because something bad may happen. While bad things can happen, kids need to challenge their surroundings for healthy growth and development. Also, “Be careful” is not specific. It could mean there are thorns in that bush or the sky is falling! Give your child the opportunity to become aware of their surroundings and bodies. Try using sayings like “Notice how slippery the ground is?” or “Did you see the cars driving by?” or “Can you hear the sound of rushing water?” These questions let the child explore options and solutions to problems.
- Answer questions without giving them too much to worry about. Adult problems and worries can become evident to even the youngest of children. When they begin asking about a tragedy on the nightly news or about something they have overheard you talk about, give them the opportunity to talk first. Ask what they know about the topic at hand and let them explain how they came to that conclusion. Help them to understand that adults have responsibilities and decisions to take care of and that they do not need to worry about these issues. Also, try limiting access to news to lower the risk of intensifying any fears.
- Help your child label emotions. A child that is predisposed to anxiety may recognize when they feel anxious more easily than when they feel anger, sadness, or guilt. If the child can put a name to what they are feeling, they can begin to regulate those emotions. This is an important time for parents to let the child know that it is perfectly normal to feel a certain way. We all will go through sadness, feel angry, or guilty for something we have done or said. Explain to the child what you do to help cope with these feelings. This will help to build their toolbox of coping strategies.
Janae Shillito, Community Relations Director for The Kim Foundation, http://www.thekimfoundation.org/
Janae Shillito has been with The Kim Foundation since February 2017. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science and Masters of Science with her alma maters including the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, respectively. Janae’s love of volunteering and helping those without a voice created a strong desire to become a part of the non-profit world. She is the volunteer coordinator for The Kim Foundation and currently serves on the Metro Area Suicide Prevention Coalition, RESPECT Community Advisory Council, Nebraska School Mental Health Steering Committee, School Based Attendance Coalition, Systems of Care’s Social Media & Communications Work Team, Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, and Nebraska’s Healthcare Network Access.