Fear Factor

We just spent a long weekend at my in-laws beach house in Maine. The weather was awful, but honestly, I love the beach equally in sunny weather and stormy weather. Sunny weather means sandcastles, jumping waves and walks on the beach. Stormy weather means great rolling waves and a true encounter with the forces of nature. Plus, it’s an excuse to curl up with a book!

My kids weren’t nearly as impressed with the beach. Bug has overcome his intense dislike of the sand and will play in it, but is still reluctant to walk around without shoes or play in the waves. LadyBug wanted nothing to do with the sand or the beach. We finally convinced her that it wasn’t so different from the sandbox at school, but she still wanted her shoes on and to remain a significant distance from the ocean. She was so put out by the situation that she went hysterical when forced to walk barefoot. Yeah.

My sister-in-law made a comment (that was only partially in jest) to the effect of, “What’s wrong with your kids?” Of course, my niece, who is about the same age as LadyBug isn’t afraid of the beach at all. But, you know what? Whatever. My kids are cautious when faced with new people and new situations. I think a little fear is healthy.

When Bug was born, I decided to fight any tendency to be an over-protective first-time mom. I think that parents who hover anxiously over their kids create an environment that feels like it should be scary. Despite all my efforts to the contrary, Bug is as cautious as they come. I actually believe that there are some neurological reasons behind that, but it doesn’t really matter. He is who he is and his caution allows him to be observant, charming and a joy to explore the world with. LadyBug shows her fear in unexpected ways. She’ll be terrified of a small dog, but can’t wait to pet a chicken. She’ll jump off the couch, but cower away from the water on the shore. Once again, she is who she is.

When I was a child, I was afraid of a lot of things, especially activities I wasn’t sure I’d be good at. It kept me from trying new things, meeting new people and just enjoying my life. As an adult, I’ve been able to move past a lot of those fears, mainly by setting my mind to make the most out of my opportunities. Ok, I’m still afraid of certain things, but I try not to let those hold me back.

One of the biggest lessons I want to teach my kids is that it’s ok to be afraid, but that you can’t let fear stop you. I want them to learn how to look fear in the eye and keep on moving. They’re too young to full grasp that lesson now, so I just try to reinforce it by encouraging them to try new things, but not force them. How do you help your kids tackle their fears?

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