The world is a scary place. There’s no denying the fact that there are thousands of potentially dangerous, unknown hazards and challenging obstacles facing us at any given moment. When we think about fears related to our kids and parenting, the list may get pretty long.
If we really stop and think about it, there are a lot of reasons to be afraid.
Having a healthy dose of fear helps us make good choices. It keeps us from getting into dangerous situations or acting impulsively.
However, fear can become too big. It can start to overshadow reality. It can start to leak into our everyday life and impact the relationship with our family, friends and even our kids.
So, how do we hold onto a healthy understanding of fear while also continuing to live and interact in the world and encouraging our kids to explore, learn and grow?
What To Do When Fear Keeps You from Enjoying Parenting
Find the Fear
Worries and fear love to hide out in the shadows of our mind. The best way to overcome fear is to bring it out into the open. Name your fear. Speak it out loud. Write it down. Journal it.
Give yourself time to brainstorm all of your worries and fears. Then, go back and look for a theme or something that ties the fears together. Many parents find their fears focus on lack of control or feeling powerless.
Put It in Perspective
When we are afraid, the brain has the tendency to over-inflate, magnify and exaggerate things. The next step to parenting through fear is to look closely at the fear and cut it down to size.
Take a few deep breaths as you think about your fear:
- What evidence do I have for this fear? What are the actual facts? (Not something you heard from a friend-of-a-friend). Does an unknown rash on your baby mean that they have measles or could there be another explanation?
- How likely is this to happen? If you have a bee’s nest right outside your front door, chances are high that your child may get stung. But, if you happen to see a bee at the park, the chances are slim that the bee will zero-in on your child and sting them.
- What’s the worst that can happen? (And, is that really so bad?) If your child has a tantrum in the store checkout line, it will be embarrassing for you, but that feeling is temporary. Plus, you can always leave the store and return when everyone is calm.
- What’s the best that can happen?
Grow Through the Fear
Fear does not need to stop us in our tracks. Now that we’ve named the fear and minimized our worries, we can make a plan for parenting through the fear.
A great way to overcome fears, is to become educated and competent. For some people, this might mean reading a parenting book, finding a support group or taking a CPR class. For other parents, it might mean learning ways to calm yourself — your thinking, your breathing and your impulses.
Another way to parent through fear is to equip our children to handle the situation on their own. While we’d like to shelter our kids and keep them from all danger, that is an impossible task. Instead, give your child the tools to know how to handle the situation when you’re not around.
Here are some examples:
- Instead of being afraid of child abduction, educate your child about tricky people and practice how to respond if they are approached by someone they don’t know.
- If you are concerned about school bullies, read books together that define bullying, practice assertiveness, and make a plan for standing up to bullying.
- As your baby learns to navigate crawling and walking, provide lots of safe places to explore. Allow them to try going up and down a few stairs before they tackle the full flight.
The world is a scary place, but that doesn’t mean we have to be slaves to fear and keep our children clothed in bubble wrap. Parenting through fear is tough, but it can be done. Give yourself lots of time and patience. Some people find it very difficult to tackle their fears on their own; if that’s the case for you, seek out the support of a mental health professional or a trusted friend.
Parental Fears: Finding Our Way in the Dark by Hand in Hand Parenting
The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach To Childhood Anxiety and Fears by Lawrence J. Cohen