how to help a child not be scared

5 Things Not to Do When Your Kids Are Afraid

Fear is a powerful emotion. Our influence on our kids has the power to instill fear or bolster our kids with courage in the face of fears. When my son was younger, I stood behind a doorway once and jumped out to scare him when he entered. The look of fear on his face broke my heart, and I remember thinking, “Why would I instill fear in my son like this?”

We hold tremendous responsibility for helping our kids through fears. Kids cannot be left to figure out their fears alone. We have to know how to help a child not be scared. Life is filled with fearful moments. Our kids need an ally to help navigate them. In order to be that ally, we need to avoid some common responses to our kids’ fears. Here are 5 things not to do when your kids are afraid.

1. Assume you know the reasons.

Before you assume you know your son or daughter’s fear, understand the entire story. Anytime we incorrectly assume something, we make bad decisions as a result. Ask questions and get the whole picture. Especially as our kids get older and into the teen years, there’s usually a deeper reason for fears and anxieties. Once our kids feel understood, they’re more apt to listen to you as you seek to help them.

2. Laugh or tease them.

Want your kids to feel small, insecure, and scared? Laugh at or tease them when they share what they are afraid of. If your kids share something they are afraid of that is silly or trivial in your eyes, it doesn’t mean it’s silly or trivial to them. You’re an adult, so you’ve learned to overcome silly and trivial things by now—but your kids haven’t. Take all the fears they have seriously and teach them how to have victory and overcome them.

3. Ignore their fears.

Being afraid is one thing, but I’m not sure there’s much worse than being afraid and alone. If you minimize your child’s fears, it’s like saying, “You’re on your own; figure it out.” That message carries over into other areas of life. “If Dad can’t be there for me in this area, then he probably won’t be there for me in other areas.” Take your kid’s fears seriously and come alongside him or her in overcoming them.

4. Become frustrated or annoyed.

It’s late at night. You’ve had a long day, and you just want to get your son to bed, but he continues to get out and say he’s afraid of (fill in the blank). I’ve made the mistake of allowing my kids to see my frustration and annoyance with them. This drives them away. Often, kids can’t help but feel afraid. If they sense their fears are bothering their dad, it adds insult to injury. Stay patient as long as it takes.

5. Let them figure it out alone.

You’ve probably realized the worst thing we can do when our kids are afraid is force them to figure out their fears alone. That’s not what great dads do for their kids. Once you understand their fears, you can begin to help them come up with a plan to overcome whatever they are. Not only will this help them overcome their fears, but it will build confidence, a connection between you, and courage for the next fearful battle they face. I’m not sure what else to call that but good parenting.

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Steps to Battling Childhood Fears.

Sound off: Do you know how to help a child not be scared? What do you do?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s your biggest fear right now, and how can I help you overcome it?”