Help kids overcome their fears

I am in Costa Rica, getting ready to zip line over the canopy of trees and I am NERVOUS. I’ve got my harness and helmet on, feeling the natural fear of being VERY high up and doing something very unnatural to humans. I tell myself, “freaking out is a choice”. I access my logic with the question, “What’s the mathematical probability of something bad happening?” I remind myself, “I get to choose how I want to think and feel right now”. I decide to focus on this really cool opportunity to see what it feels like to be a bird. 

Once I take off and am flying through the trees like a bird, the thought comes to me, “I have always wanted to do this. This is my dream coming true.” 

Oh yeah, with all the fear, I had forgotten that. 

But while I am using all my tools to deal with fear, I’m watching others, drop like flies.

Not out of the sky, thankfully, but off the platform, out of line, and back onto solid ground. Teens and tweens, crying unconsolably or standing frozen with fear. Moms and Dads doing their best to reassure, convince, console and talk their kids out of their freak out. None of these parents had the capacity to override the reptilian part of their kid’s brain. The reptilian brain is the part that hyjacks the more intellectual parts of our brain and can only focus on fight, flight or freeze.

Have you ever been in this situation? Your kid is too scared to ride a roller coaster, or be left alone in the house, or talk to someone they don’t know, or eat a vegetable, or other scary, yet typical hallmarks of childhood?

When the reptilian brain kicks in, it’s pretty hard for a parent to override it with logic. In fact, none of these parents I’m watching on the zip, line were successful. All these kids ended up walking back down, or refusing to step up to the platform, surrendering to their fear.

So what is a parent to do when their kid is scared? How can we encourage them to be brave, in a way that actually works?

The important thing to remember is to be respectful of their fears. Life is full of scary, vulnerable things and we want our kids to learn how to overcome their fears. This is a VERY important life skill and one worthy of respect.

The trick is to help kids shift out of fight/flight/freeze response so they can make a decision from their higher brain. Helping kids calm down is first priority. Bring them away from the immediate threat and speak to your scared kiddos with a calm, confident voice. Don’t try to talk your child out of his fears, instead listen with respect, almost reverence. Then repeat what you hear them saying, adding in these key words: YOUR BRAIN. As in, “Your brain is telling you that you could die.” or “It sounds like your brain is thinking this spider can harm you.”

When children avoid their fears, it can encourage anxiety, so we don’t want to let them off the hook entirely. Once you’ve calmed them down, try asking your child, “What would make you feel more comfortable?” or “What’s one small step you can take towards overcoming your fear, that would make you feel proud of yourself tomorrow?”

Fears are a natural and beneficial part of being human. When kids get to work through them one at a time, at their own pace, they will slowly learn to manage their reptilian brain, take risks that align with their values, and learn how much fun there is to be had on the other side of their fears 🙂

Pura Vida! 

letting go of worry

He got cell service on a hike and texted me this. Amazing.

My son was leaving to go camping for 3 nights in Yosemite with his friends. I have been SO GOOD about not worrying or micromanaging, like seriously, they don’t even have a camping reservation. Ever since I started doing research into the skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression in teens, I’ve been much more cautious about putting my worries onto my kids.

My son is 18 years old. A man who makes his own decisions. He’s camped before. He knows what he needs. So I don’t go over his packing list with him. I want to communicate enthusiasm and show that I trust him. So I sneak things in….

“What’s the weather going to be like in Yosemite?”  He answers “probably nice”.  “Did you check? Sometimes it snows in the mountains in June.” (He looks it up! Yeah! 40 degrees at night, Score 1 for Mom!)

I say, “I know you aren’t planning on cooking while camping, do you want to bring that box of granola bars from the pantry?” “Sure” he replies. (He grabs one. For four days. Score 1 for the teen)

After he’s left, I notice his warm North Face jacket still in the closet. I text him, “Your jacket is here. I’m worried you aren’t going to be warm enough.”  “I’ll be fine”, he says, “I brought a long sleeved shirt and a windbreaker.” ……me, silently aghast…. “Can you ask your friend to just throw an extra sweatshirt in the car, just in case?” (He doesn’t, and he never got cold. Score 1 for the teen)

Me….squeezing one more text in before he goes out of cell range….“Do you know what to do if you see a bear?”  “Yes, Mom” He replies. (the old me would have told him what to do, showed him youtube videos or warnings so I’m giving myself a 1/2 point for this one). I don’t even remind him not to keep food in the tent. Or say 3 people have already died in Yosemite this year. Or tell him not to wander off a waterfall. So proud.

Over-parenting is fear based parenting. It can make our teens not want to listen to us, it can increase anxiety and depression in kids because they pick up the message that world is scary, can’t be trusted, and that they aren’t strong or capable enough to handle adversity.

So what if my teen gets hungry?!  So what if he gets cold?!  This is how they learn what they are actually made of. Right!?

I felt totally justified in my worrying. I felt like I was being a typical MOM. That it’s my role and responsibility to worry about his safety and well being.

But maybe it’s time for Moms to teach without FEAR. Could I have gone over his packing list with enthusiasm, instead of presuming he’d forget something?  Just because my brain starts looking for everything that could go wrong, doesn’t mean I should communicate it to him.

Some schools are deliberately putting kids into adverse environments, forcing them outside of their comfort zones in order to build self reliance, resourcefulness and confidence. I love this idea. Over parenting has helped our teenagers live cushy lives where they don’t get to test their mettle in the real world. Maybe a little constructive adversity is just what they need to thrive in this dynamic world?

And maybe I can start by letting go of worry, trusting that we live in a safe and wonderful world, with many helpful people.

He ended up having a great time and everything went perfectly. (Score 100 for the teen)

 

 

 

4 things to say to your teens about dress code

Are you hearing about dress code violations at your kid’s school?

Dress code in schools is a hot topic! Use it as a teachable moment to have these 4 conversations with your teen. Click here to watch the video.

  1. Like it or not, how you look sends a message. Are you sending the message you want?

  2. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own mind. Are short skirts a distraction? Sure. So is rain. and farting. and improper grammar. It’s not your responsibility to help other’s focus their attention.

  3. Focusing on a person’s spirit is what’s important, not their appearance. We all have opinions, judgements and stereotypes. It’s our job to look past them and see the essence of a fellow human.

  4. If you experience injustice, help correct it! We need you to use your voice, raise the bar on adults and help us do better.

 

Help! My high schooler has D’s!

…and I’m freaking out….is usually the sentence that follows when Moms come to me with this situation.

In order to help your teenager in this situation, you’ve got to coach yourself first and step out of FUTURIZING & CATASTROPHIZING.

It is very common for parents to imagine the worst case scenario: “He’s going to be a bum on my couch playing video games! No college is going to want her! She’s failing and I need to do something about it!” Many of us like to throw ourselves into the mix and say “If she’s failing, then I’m failing as her parent!”  This panicky energy will make kids resist and rebel, pushing against us and not allowing us to help them.

Watch this video to learn how to help your high schooler who is getting D’s in school. 

Need help learning how to stop futurizing & catastrophizing?  Schedule a free life coaching session at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

When your teen refuses to go to prom

This can be difficult for some parents!

Many parents see prom as a right of passage. Something their teen “should do” or they will regret it. But often it’s our own fears and insecurities that get in the way of supporting our child’s decision. There are many reasons a teenager might opt out of prom.

We think that if our teen goes to prom, then we don’t have to worry about them. But this can keep us from seeing other issues that are really important. Do they have social anxiety or depression?  Are they taking a stance that is aligned with their true self? Do they just not like dancing and feel perfectly fine about it?

If your teen is open to discussing it with you, ask him why he doesn’t want to go and if he likes his reason. If he feels good about his decision, it will make it easier for you to feel good about it, too. Click here to watch the video below.