Parents with Teenagers - Have Compassion for Unwarranted FearsMay 19, 2023
Does your teenager have fears or anxiety that seem to have no basis?
If we are honest, we all experience this at some level. Here is an example that illustrates how this can happen from my parenting journey.
So this story starts on a beautiful summer day. I was walking from my car into a local restaurant. My oldest son was 4 years old and he was holding my hand as we made our way through the parking lot. We were about to step up on the sidewalk when I noticed a large dog heading our way. The dog was very interested in my son so he ran up to us ready to engage in some play. It should be noted that we didn’t have a dog so my son had very limited experience with dogs. From my son’s perspective all he saw was a large, unfamiliar creature with big teeth running right for him. His primal mind went straight to … don’t get eaten. Consequently, for the next several years he was very afraid of dogs and as with many fears it impacted the quality of his life. He would refuse to go to a friend's birthday party if he knew they had a dog. He would hide behind me every time he saw a dog, even if it was walking on a leash 100 yards away.
Obviously, this was a challenge for us and our son but here is the interesting unforeseen consequence. This fear of dogs was handed down to our other children. His younger sisters would see my son’s panic anytime a dog was around and they took on his sense of danger. Even though they had not had a personal experience with a dog that would warrant a fear of dogs, their older brother’s fear became their teacher. Now instead of having one child hiding behind me every time a dog was in sight, I had three. Fortunately, over time all of the kids were able to overcome this fear. In fact, my oldest son now has two dogs of his own.
I bring up this story to point out how easily a fear can be developed even without a personal experience to warrant the fear. The other item to note is that the fear is just as real to the fearful person whether it was born out of their personal experience or just from observing others. The fear my two daughters experienced was very real for them. So while we may not always understand the source or cause of a particular fear our teen is experiencing, our approach should stay the same. Have compassion and provide a safe place for them to regain their composure. Once this has been accomplished use your empowerment coaching skills to reframe their beliefs and design a plan to overcome the disempowering fear.
A Change in Perspective … Changes Everything.
Your family enrichment coach,