How to Teach Your Child to Overcome Fear (and succeed!)

Fear is an emotional human response to real and perceived threats which results in a fight or flight reaction. Historically, it served our ancestors well, ensuring that they keep their distance from sabertooth tigers and the like, However, as the centuries have passed and developments in civilization and technology have made our lives more comfortable, most of the fears we face are now based on the aforementioned perception of threats. Threats aren’t what they used to be either. Instead of stampeding woolly mammoths we now fear trying new things and even success, both of which are founded in anxiety over failure. Much of this fear takes root in our youth and carries over into adulthood, placing many in careers that leave them with the burden of regret. Do you want the same for your children or students? Certainly not. For this reason it’s important to take a page from Babe Ruth and teach kids to not let the fear of striking out stop them from playing the game. Below are helpful tips to helping them overcome fear.

3 Powerful Ways to Help Your Children/Students Overcome Fear and Clear the Way to Chase Their Dreams

Teach Them to Learn from Mistakes

To teach children that they can change the world, we must let them know that they are capable of ANYTHING. That being said, we must teach them that small incremental “failures” are a part of the goal-getting process. More importantly, we must teach them to use these temporary defeats as stepping stones to success, learning from mistakes and making corrections that eventually lead to a better way of doing things.

Let’s return to Babe Ruth’s analogy for life, and take it literally. If your child/student is afraid to step up to the plate on the baseball field because they struck out every time last game, work with them to correct their swing. Take them to practice at a local batting cage, away from the roar of fellow teammates and overzealous parents. In addition, review footage together from the previous outing to identify where they can make adjustments to their stance and swing. Also watch footage of experts (i.e. their favorite players) which will get them more excited about making adjustments, and repeat the entire process after each game until they become more proficient. When you integrate responses to failures/mistakes into practice and learning activities you change they way kids perceive these failures/mistakes.

Connect to a Peer Mentor

Every parent understands this one. You try your darnedest to get your child to try some new activity, only to be met with impenetrable resistance. Then one day, a slightly older (by a year or two) cousin or kid next door asks them to join in on their own volition and your child jumps at the opportunity. You’re left flabbergasted.

Face it parents/teachers, your not cool. So getting your kids/students to try something new because you say it’s fun, interesting, and worthwhile won’t work. But if you instead connect them to a mentor that is a little older who can set an example, they will more than likely overcome their fear and participate. This is easy enough to accomplish in a school setting. In Canada, many schools are adopting peer mentorship programs where kids from higher grades work with those in younger grades. These programs have proven to be very effective in getting younger children to escape their shell and take on activities and tasks that once intimated them.

Ask Them What They Are Afraid of

Lastly, sit with the child and ask them in a caring manner what they are afraid of when it comes to a given activity. Far too often kids are expected to try a new activity without time being taken to address questions and concerns that they may have. By asking, you validate their feelings and gain the opportunity to find out what is specifically causing fear. This may identify an irrational or mitigable fear that can be cleared away with communication or a change of process.

Let’s say that you find out that your child/student refused to participate in a school garden because they were very afraid of bees. You can acknowledge this fear and then teach them about how beneficial bees are as pollinators. From there, you can inform them about how bees are in danger and need their help. At the same time you can introduce steps you can take together to greatly reduce the possibility of being stung. Asking, listening, and responding in a thoughtful manner is the most effective way to teach your child to overcome fear.

How Kids Can Overcome Fear

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