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Fear is nothing to fear

Are your kids afraid?

Mine are.

Afraid of the dark, afraid of nightmares, afraid of making new friends, afraid of me leaving them, afraid of the babysitter, afraid of death and so on.

For most of their lives I wished they wouldn’t be afraid. It was so painful to watch them struggle!

I tried to talk them out of it: “There are no monsters in the closet. The room is the same when the lights go out. You’ll find friends. I’ll be back tonight.You won’t die. It’s all going to be ok!”

I tried to convince them to not be afraid. I told them they shouldn’t be afraid.

As I did this, I communicated that fear is something to be afraid of. My actions and tone let them know that fear is a problem.

When a child understands from their parent that they shouldn’t be afraid, and they are afraid, this compounds the problem.

Now they are afraid of being afraid.

Think about the implications of that statement for a minute.

As an adult you know that fear can be good. Without fear, you might risk your life by climbing too high, being too close to the edge of a cliff, or driving too fast.

Fear protects you.

When fear is working properly it tells you when something is wrong.

You want your kids to know dangers and limits and they have to learn those by listening to their fears.

Teaching your children to be present with their fear allows them to know their own internal warning system. For example, it is good for them to be afraid of going in a swimming pool alone. That saves their lives. That is a rational fear that helps them survive.

Most parents want their kids to experience this rational type of fear because it helps protect their children, however what about the irrational fears your kids have? Why do you talk your kids out of those?

You are probably trying to protect them from feeling fear because fear feels uncomfortable, and you want your kids to feel good.

You don’t like to see them suffering for no reason.

Parents seem to agree that fear is ok if it saves kids from crossing a highway and getting hit by a car, but not ok if there are no monsters under the bed.

Parents are usually ok with rational fears that protect kids, and not ok with irrational fears that seem to serve no point.

Here’s the thing though: irrational fears don’t stop when you become an adult. They just become more sneaky.

Chances are you aren’t afraid of the dark or monsters under your bed, but you might be afraid that you are failing. That you aren’t enough. That something in your life has gone wrong.

Grownups don’t stop feeling irrational fears. The fears actually get sneakier and more irrational.