It’s normal for children to experience fear and anxiety. Dad can be a wonderful calming influence, helping children find peace amidst chaos. In addition to infusing childhood angst with paternal goodwill, a father establishes himself as a rock of dependability for his family by the way we manage our own fear and anxiety.
Fear vs Excitement
From our neck down, our bodies have THE SAME EXACT chemical reaction when we feel fear as when we feel excitement! Readying for action, our bodies enter a hyper-aware state. The difference between succumbing to fear and channeling excitement is driven by the answer to this question: which thoughts do we allow to take over our minds as our bodies become agitated? If we choose thoughts of fear, our brain is saying, “No, no, no, this is too scary and I’m afraid!” If we choose thoughts of excitement, our brain sends signals that prepare us to rock and roll. By harnessing control of our thoughts, our mind is either working for us towards excitement or against us towards fear.
Respect Our Fears
Sometimes, fear is justified. Fear can be a warning sign to pursue safeguards in situations where excitement would be insane. Fear is a healthy internal warning system designed to tip us off in case something doesn’t seem right. If we sense harm, fear is a sensible response of self-preservation. Through this heightened awareness, we intelligently withdraw from unsafe situations.
Face Our Fears
When we bury fear in the dusty regions of our subconscious, it can fester. When we avoid things that cause fear, we reinforce self-doubt. Overly fearful fathers tend to raise overly fearful children. Instead of running from our fears, face them. Strengthen resolve. Have the self-discipline to shore up chinks in our armor. Accept challenges that may have previously seemed insurmountable.
As a father manages unusual, unpredictable, or frightening situations, we gain—and demonstrate—strength. As we display self-confidence, intelligently assess risk, and cope with things beyond our control, we teach children to overcome. As they get older, we can gently and gradually introduce and reintroduce challenging situations, while encouraging perseverance. Despite the inherent discomfort of facing our fears, welcoming them can help us burst through faux ceilings to conquer and rise above.
Respect Children’s Fears
Belittling a child for their fear only compounds the original problem by introducing shame. We serve our children’s best interests by viewing fear, never as a character flaw, but as an opportunity to learn. With respect as the central heartbeat of all conversations about fear, fathers can slowly but surely encourage children to recognize and understand the difference between healthy caution and self-imposed roadblocks to new and exciting opportunities.
Verbal & Physical Reassurance
By acknowledging our children’s feelings, we validate them. Consistently offer a listening ear and comforting words, help them realize that we will always be there for them. When words alone are not helping, gently pull them close or take their hand. Physical touch reinforces dad’s offer of protection, the calm confidence to convey that fears are manageable, and the soothing reassurance that we have their back.
Our Mind & Deep Breathing
We can intentionally operate our minds to purposefully magnify or minimize fear. Reflect on the abundance of things for which we should be grateful. By slowing our thoughts, closing our eyes, and concentrating on our breathing, we can allow a peaceful serenity into our body. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Make the exhale last longer than the inhale; deep breathing exercises encourage the body to physically calm itself so we can collect ourselves to then seek and destroy shackles of fear. Popular exercises for relief from anxiety and stress include cyclic sighing, box breathing, and the Wim Hof Method.
With the awareness that our minds hold the power to choose our perspective, we can search for thoughts of fear and anxiety, or alternatively, those of clarity and purpose. Consider how our mental thought processes drive the emotions involved in the moments before a public speaking engagement or in the dressing room before a boxing match. Either way, the protagonist decides how to proceed; are they held down by a self-imposed anchor or do they spread their wings and take flight? With a conquering mindset, we turn from doubt to envision success.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
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PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.