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! 

How to influence your teen

Today’s question comes from a Mom of a teenager:

Q – I know friends can be a big influence on teenagers. How can I still be a strong influence on my teen?

A – For this answer I turned to the experts. Those who have made their careers (and earn big money) motivating, influencing and inspiring others. What I found is two words that get your teen to listen to you and pay attention to what you have to say: Bold Enthusiasm. Watch the video below to learn how to communicate with bold enthusiasm to your teen and be a positive and powerful influence in their life.

 

Friendship drama ramps up at the end of the school year

Emotions run high as the year comes to a close

We expect kids to be excited and enthusiastic for the relaxed days of summer: sleeping in, no homework or lunches to make. woo-hoo!

So when friendship changes happen, kids can get upset. Your best friend that you’ve been with all year, suddenly wants to hang with someone else. The group you’ve been a part of suddenly splits into two. It’s weird! Unless you understand that it’s normal.

When kids aren’t expecting their friendship to change and don’t understand why it’s happening, it can be very hurtful. When this disappointment and hurt come home, it can mess with OUR enthusiasm and peace in our house!

Watch the video to learn why some kids avoid their friends right before school gets out and others cling to what they have had. When kids can see this as a normal response to the fear of change, and expect the unexpected, it helps them not take things personally.

If you want more helping creating peace in your home, 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.

Moms: It’s time to do LESS

Imagine your middle schooler had a tough day at school: His friends ditched him at lunch, your daughter got a bad grade on her report, a seagull pooped on his jacket, etc. After school, your child walks home with a friend, shooting the breeze, talking about nothing. By the time she gets home, she FEELS BETTER! Something about the slow pace, the exercise, the peer support, the nature time, the independence, makes those problems fade away. Now, at home, she feels relaxed.

It’s more normal in today’s overprotective and over-scheduled culture for kids to get picked up in cars, rushed to activities, asked about school/grades/friendships, etc. Moms are looking for problems to solve, wondering whether to intervene, wanting kids to be happy.

When today’s kids do walk home, they pop their earbuds in, stare at their screens, and disconnect from people around them. Rather than using this valuable time to process emotions and connect in compassionate ways, they avoid and suppress emotions, making them feel even worse.

When trying to understand why rates of anxiety & depression are skyrocketing in today’s teens, it comes down to many small things, having a great big impact.

As parents, we want to smooth the way for them, make it easier, protect them from negative emotions and experiences. But our attempts to make life easier for them, may be costing them their mental well being.

Kids need to feel they can handle life’s mishaps on their own. Having time, moving in nature with friends, to process these emotions is natural. Sheltering kids, for fear they will experience a negative emotion, can delay their growth. Don’t buy into the popular culture that says “A good Mom would do everything for and with her children.” Kids need uncomfortable experiences in order to build internal strength and resilience.

As you are making plans for this summer, try encouraging experiences that push your kids outside their comfort zone.

  1. Send them to summer camp (without YOU!)
  2. Make them earn money: get a job, start a business, organize a garage sale or lemonade stand.
  3. Have them walk or ride their bike, instead of being driven, to summer classes, camps, parks, pools, etc.
  4. Plan an “old fashioned” play date. Invite your friends over with their kids (different ages/genders preferred) and send them out into the street while you and the other Moms play cards and sip cocktails. (and invite me to this one!)
  5. Send them to the grocery store to buy groceries and make dinner for the family.
  6. Let them sleep in a tent in the backyard.
  7. Buy a season pass to an amusement park and drop them off.

This fear based parenting culture needs to stop. Our kids are physically safer than anytime in history but the mental/emotional stress of modern living is taking a toll. Do you have any other ideas?  I’d love to hear them.

The love we have for our kids created this overprotective, fear based culture. We can use the same love for our kids to relax, do less, and show our kids the world is a safe and trusting place.