My mother is afraid of centipedes. I’m sure she has good reasons though I don’t clearly remember what they are. I’m also afraid of centipedes. My only rationale is that I don’t like how they look. I strongly suspect that a lot of my fear is actually my mother’s fear – just in my body. This gives rise to a great question: how do we not pass on our fears to our children?
Is it possible for us to prevent passing our fears to our children?
Well, yes and no. I know, that’s a total non-answer, but hear me out. It is true that we inadvertently pass things on to our children. They pick stuff up from observing the way we behave and, don’t get me started on the weirdness of genetics. So yes, our children may more likely than not have the same fears we do. But there’s a way around it: we can empower our child to not be crippled by fear.
Being afraid and acting afraid are two different things.
You can teach your child to walk boldly in areas where you may still be learning to crawl. There are a few ways to do this:
1. Get help for yourself. It may be that you simply need to experiment a bit or be a more open with the people around you. But, your fear may have developed into a phobia that needs professional help. Don’t be ashamed to get help. Your age doesn’t matter.
You will empower your child by letting them know they are never too old to learn or to seek help for a problem.
2. Work on your relationship with God. As we have discovered in the last few weeks, a big part of overcoming our fears have to do with the relationship we have with God. Read your Bible. Do in-depth Bible studies – a good topic to start with is fear or faith.
Spend time praying to God. This will not only model good behavior for your children, you will also be in the presence of the Great Healer. Jesus is able to heal you in ways regular doctors can’t.
3. Actively work on facing your fears. Your child needs to understand that fear is a part of the world we live in, but they don’t have to live defeated. When they see you facing your fears on a daily basis, it teaches them they can also face their fears.
I know my Mom's afraid of forty-legs, erm, centipedes, but she doesn't run screaming when she sees one. She doesn't stop until she kills it (there's nothing more frightening to a Jamaican than a forty-leg on the loose).
As we face our fears in front of our children, they learn fear doesn’t have to cripple them. It is possible for us to learn to leverage our fears and use them to our advantage. Maybe someday your child will tell their children about their fearless mom or dad.
What are your tips for not passing on our fears to our children?
Challenge: Make a plan to actively face your fears. Start facing your fears today.