Tips for Tackling Fears

Many children and teens experience anxiety and fears in a variety of forms from social and school anxiety, to a fear of dogs or fear of vomiting.  Currently, as a result of the pandemic we are experiencing, many teens and children are experiencing fears and worries of Covid-19.

These fears and anxieties can keep your child from reaching his/her full potential and can often result in decreased self-confidence and self-esteem. Specifically with worries of Covid-19, children and teens may also let those fears result in not wanting to go outside or even not wanting their parents to go back to work.

1. Create a Challenge Ladder
Choose a challenge and create a “ladder” to help your child work in small steps. Make sure the challenge is out of your child’s “comfort” zone but not in the “terror” zone. Create small, attainable steps at first, and work up to more challenging situations. This will help increase your child’s confidence as they experience small successes and learn to refute negative thoughts.Once they realize that the worse case scenario did not happen, they will begin to develop a new belief system that the more positive scenario can happen.

2. Model Courage and Self-Acceptance
As the parent, be a role model and challenge your own fears. Let your kids see you work through challenges and express self-acceptance through successes and “failures”. You can share your feelings with your kids, in age-appropriate amounts. For example, you might say, “I’m nervous about a big presentation I have at work, but I know I’m prepared and will use deep breathing techniques beforehand to calm my mind.”

3. Develop a Growth Mindset
If your child asks questions like, “Why am I like this?” or “I’ll never be able to do this” (fixed mindset), help them change those questions to, “How can I achieve this goal?” or “Who do I want to be?” (growth mindset).

4. See Failure as a Teacher
Failure can be a crucial component of success. Many accomplished leaders have noted that without failure they would never have achieved their goals. When failure occurs, ask your child, “What did you learn from the experience?” and “What can you do differently next time?”

Here’s to your Well Being!
Maria Antoniou, LMFT