From incidents on the playground, losing sight of mum or dad in the park or finding a date for the school dance or job after school, most children have a fear of something. Thanks to Covid 19 – accelerating our already rapidly changing world – our children have another fear to add to their lists, particularly our preteens and teenagers who have known the way of life before the effects of pandemic. So how should we be managing their fears, without creating overly anxious neurotic children?
The first place to begin, is with yourself. Try not to deny or hide the fears you have. Children need to see their parents being human and in turn dealing with their fears. This conveys to them that there is nothing wrong with being afraid. Acknowledgement and awareness is afterall the first step towards a solution. And remember children gain confidence from watching us doing things, so by facing your fears, you are teaching them to face theirs.
A common mistake we make is either downplaying or dismissing a child’s fear as irrational. First of all, many fears are not always relatable or necessarily shared by others and a fearful child is not a ‘thinking’ child. So it’s important to validate your child’s feelings and let them know you are on their side. Fortunately or unfortunately, the majority of the world is having to face the fear of the unknown as we begin to navigate a new world post Covid 19 lockdowns, with its new social norms.
Children need to be reminded of their strengths and past achievements in overcoming challenges, as this creates a sense of empowerment which is exactly what they need alongside resilience and being equipped with the right coping tools. The idea is to bolster and encourage, and not to rush to overload your child with reassurance.
The best way to find a healthy medium between reassurance and independence can be seen in this analogy. If your child needs to learn to cross over a river along a narrow log, the best thing you can do for them is teach them to find their balance and support them while they do. Carrying them across on your own back or leaving them without a guiding hand or words of encouragement, will more than likely result in a fall.
It is natural for parents to want to shield and protect our children from harm, but in order to support their continued development, we must try not to shield them from reality all together. None of us are certain of what the future holds and especially in light of Covid 19, we cannot possibly be sure of what the ‘new’ world will look like. Thus we must remember that our children are at the beginning of their lives and the world must seem like a very scary and especially uncertain place at the best of times. So let’s continue to communicate with our children, validate their feelings and reassure them that they are not alone.