Dealing with fears. – Part 2. [EN / POL]

This post is a continuation of
the previous one that you can find by clicking HERE.
                If you want to help your child deal with their fears,
the first thing you have to ask yourself is: “Am I OK when my child is
afraid? Does it cause me a problem?” Some common reactions parents have in
situations where their children are fearful:
– Embarrassment – if the fear
makes the child different from others then they don’t want to be seen as having
failed as parents.)
– Fear that their child may
never be “normal” (for example, someone posted a comment like this –
“if you don’t push your kid to go into the water, then they won’t be able
to make friends in the future because they’ll be too afraid of doing what
others do.”)
– Parents may feel powerless
or incompetent if they don’t know how to help their child or do not feel
confident in the use of helping skills.
When a child exhibits fear,
many parents unfortunately see their child’s behavior as cowardice. Imagining
that others will judge the child likewise, a common reaction for parents is to
feel embarrassed. They’re afraid of losing the approval of others. It is indeed
possible that others will disapprove of a parent supporting a child in
emotional distress. At this point the parent will need to weigh this risk and
the risk of not supporting the child.
When a child feels threatened
and a trusted person chooses to withhold support, preferring to distract,
argue, judge, ridicule, or lecture, the bond of trust is weakened along with
any influence that adult may have with the child. A child is much more likely
to avoid stressful situations entirely once they have seen that no one can be
trusted to support them.
that child may never be “normal”.
If a child’s fears may result
in him becoming socially isolated, as in the swimming example above, a parent
may think that something HAS to be done. I suspect that underneath this
desperation is the parent’s own painful memories of abandonment and isolation.
For them, it is unbearable to risk allowing the child to handle it in their own
way. However, the danger of taking control of the situation—from the child,
that is, is that the child will feel betrayed and come to see the parent as a
threat. It may or may not help them overcome their fear of swimming, for
example, but tossing them into the water before they are ready WILL injure your
A no-risk approach is to
facilitate a child in confronting their fears themselves. This improves the
level of trust and reduces the anxiety of the child.
may feel helpless if they don’t feel confident in their helping skills.
The helping skill that we’re
going to discuss next is not common knowledge. It is used primarily by
therapists and counselors with great effect. But this skill that I call active
listening is very simple and takes only a little practice to master. In time it
can become so integrated into your communication style that using it feels more
natural than not using it. Here we discuss it only briefly and plan to expand
on this in a future post.
When a child experiences an “irrational” fear–one that doesn’t make sense
to us, they are then MOST in need of our support. These “irrational” fears
exist only in the child’s reality and no one else’s. This leaves them to face
the danger alone. By listening to the child with the aim of seeing what the
child sees and feeling what the child feels, we provide assurance to the child
that we also see the danger and that he is not alone. In order to do this, we
must briefly remove ourselves from our own reality and enter that of the child.
To remove ourselves from our own reality is to suspend any moral judgments, to
forgo attempting to solve their problem or to manage the outcome, and to accept
ALL of your child’s thoughts and feelings as valid and rational (which is
true… in their reality).
When the child feels that he
is accompanied in his frightening reality, it becomes much less frightening. He
now has someone with whom he can share his experiences. He does not need to
concern himself with defending his reality from his parent’s reality. It is at
this moment that a child can consider the dangers facing him. The child begins
to see possible solutions to a problem that only moments ago seemed
insurmountable. His new companion listens to his solutions and repeats them to
allow the child to consider them more carefully. Once he finds a solution that
feels good to him he is sure to follow through with it. It is now the child who
is acting rather than reacting, he has found a measure of control where before
he felt as if he had none.
We will use the scenario of the girl afraid to go down the water slide:
Girl: “I don’t want to go on the slide, I’m scared!”
Adult: “You don’t want to go there, you’re too scared! I’d
like to take a look from the top.”
Girl: “No way, it’s way too high and I don’t want to get
Adult: “You think the slide is too high and that you might get
wet if we went to the top.”
Girl: “Yes, I don’t want to get wet.”
Adult: “I got it, you want to stay dry. I don’t see anyone
getting wet up at the top, if it starts to look like that might happen then I’m
OK with coming back down.”
Girl: “OK, I’m OK with that. Let’s see what it looks
 [From the top of the water slide.]
Girl: “Oh there is NO WAY I’m going on this slide!”
Adult: “It sounds like you’ve made up your mind! This slide
looks like a lot of fun to me!”
Girl: “Yeh, this thing is a lot higher than I first thought
and it looks more scary than fun!”
Adult: “You weren’t prepared for a slide this high and now it
just looks scary!”
Girl: “That’s right! But you know… everyone else seems to be
laughing and really excited about it. Do they have any smaller slides at this
Adult: “Yes, they have one about half this size. I can go
there with you if you’d like.”
Girl: “I’m not ready for something this high just yet. I’ll
take a look at the smaller slide. Maybe I’ll try this one next year!”
Using this skill anyone can
provide a supportive environment in which their children (or anyone else) can
find refuge from anxiety allowing them the pleasure of fully expressing
themselves, of the pride that comes with solving their own problems and of
being in control of their own lives.
                Come back in two weeks to read more about how to give
a child more support in stressful situations – we’ll discuss it in more detail.
Till next time!
Aga & Nathan