Eight-year-old Noah climbed the 125 steps of the Stingray, a giant waterslide. He reached the top, looked down, then turned and climbed down; the view from the top was just too frightening. Ten minutes later Noah mounted the 125 steps again, his cousin, Colin, by his side, talking words of encouragement. The companionship helped. But the fear was still too large; Noah disembarked, again, without riding. He must have climbed up and down those stairs 12 times. Then he mastered it; he got to the top, climbed into the raft with his cousin and they pushed off. The raft plunged down the vertical drop off. Noah had conquered his fear. He grinned from ear-to-ear at the bottom then clamored up the steps to ride the Stingray again. He was elated.

The world is a scary place. Managing fear is a challenge we all face and it never really goes away. Having a trusted guide or friend can help. Parents often become that trusted guide as you help your child face and master his fears. Here’s a three-step process you can use to help your kids work through their fears. It goes like this: name it, claim it, and tame it.

  1. Name it: Sometimes we don’t realize why we are avoiding something. Identifying the fear helps us realize what we’re up against. The first step is to name it, “I’m afraid.”
  2. Claim it: You have to claim your fear before you can figure out what to do with it. Accept it, it’s yours. A fear isn’t good or bad; it’s a feeling. Don’t be ashamed of it; we all have fears.
  3. Tame it: Take the fear, look it in the face and make a decision to master it. Remember, fear is simply a feeling. Sometimes the fear is based on reality, something scary or bad is bound to happen, and sometimes fear is based on our imagination or simply on an unknown outcome. Identify how real the risk is then develop a plan to manage the situation. When you become focused on outcome the fear often dissipates.

Kids fear many things, made up and real: monsters, ghosts, strangers, fast rides, rejection, ridicule, etc. Parents have their own lists of fears: fears for their kids’ future and fears about job loss, economic hardship, health challenges, etc.  Teach your kids about fear, it’s normal, it’s universal, and it’s manageable. It helps children when parents admit to fears too and then model the process: name, claim, tame. So be open with your child about your own experiences, tell an occasional story about a fear/struggle you dealt with, then help your child learn how to face and conquer fear. It’s a gift that will last a lifetime.

Amy Sluss, RN is an author and family-life specialist. She leads engaging parent-child workshops and has a product line of informational kits to help parents understand and stay connected to their preteen and teen children. Visit her website at www.fab2bfem.com