It is quite normal for children to experience fear and worry at one time or another. Some children may be more anxious or fearful than the other siblings in their family and may benefit from work with a child psychologist. There are, however, some simple and effective strategies taught in The Magic Coat workshops that can help children with some of their common worries.
The simple analogy of putting on The Magic Coat can make many children feel safe and confident to face day to day activities. One of the pockets holds Tate the Turtle.
Unlike other turtles, Tate is a sea turtle and sea turtles cannot pull their head, arms and legs into their shell to hide so they need to face all the situations that come their way head on. Tate knows that every new situation he tries and accomplishes helps him to grow and become stronger. He loves to celebrate each new accomplishment by placing a sticker on his shell.
You can explain to your children that they, too, can be like Tate with a little bit of guidance and help from you as their parent.
The first thing that you as a parent/child team are going to do is to draw a Worry Ladder on a piece of paper. Then your children are going to write all the worries that they have on their ladder in order of how concerning they are. Little worries will go on the bottom and the biggest worry on the top (you can find out more about this in Parenting Through The Primary Years Book- available through our website shop).
As a parent it is really important when reading your childrens’ worries to not tell them that they are silly or irrational, but to instead validate their fears so that they feel that they can trust you. When your children trust that you understand them they will bemore likely to listen to your reasons as to why they need not worry so much and believe that you will help them.
Once your children have written their fears down you need to help them place their worries into perspective. (this is explained in depth in Parenting Through The Primary Years Book as well).
When you take the time to discuss each worry and how likely it is to actually happen you allow the children to realise how much time they should actually be spending worrying about each fear. You can also talk to your children about, ‘the worst case scenario’ with each worry that they have. When children realise what will happen, what support they will have and how life will go on under each worse case scenario, it lessens the anxiety.
Of course many children fear situations that are actually important stepping stones to them successfully meeting important milestones for their age. This is when you will need to help them face their fears by taking baby steps before facing their greatest fear.
I remember my eldest daughter once being terribly afraid to get into the swimming pool for her first swimming lesson. I was horrified to watch her sitting by the pool crying and her swimming teacher pouring a huge bucket of water over her head, which saw her scream and run away in terror. This is exactly what not to do when encouraging a child who has a fear of water.
Instead you need to explain to your children that, if they want to accomplish something new like Tate The Turtle, they need to set little goals that will help them to reach their big goals.
You want your children to feel some control over the situation, by allowing them to be part of creating the steps they will take to help them reach their big goals. Make sure that “NOT DOING IT” is never an option.
In my daughter’s situation the “baby steps” or little goals to helping her like water may have included;
- Blowing bubbles in the bath
- Putting her face fully in the bath
- Getting in the swimming pool to kick her legs and move her arms while an adult holds her
- Sitting on the edge of the pool and blowing bubbles in the pool
- Sitting on the edge of the pool and putting her face into the pool
- Putting her face in the water and kicking her legs in the water while an adult holds her
You have probably got the idea now. These little steps help a child overcome fear but, because they understand what the expectations are and who is going to be with them along the way, their fears are lessened.
As a parent there are times when you will feel anxious yourself as you watch your children go through these fears. There will be times you may even feel angry and frustrated at your children but you need to remind yourself that you are their number one role model. When they see that you are calm and confident they will begin to feel that too.
Continually give your children praise as they step through each “baby step”. You can use phrases such as;
- “Don’t worry we will get through this together.”
- “It’s okay to feel the fear but keep pushing through”
- “It will get easier soon”
- “How proud are you going to feel once this is done”
- “I am so proud of you and love you so much”
Children love to see that they are not the only ones who experience fears and worry so make sure you look out for the next Magic Coat Workshop - Dealing with Worry and Anxiety and attend with your child, to find out more about how fear can be overcome using The Magic Coat strategies.