What is being brave?
For children to cope with feeling anxious, they must understand the importance of being brave. They must understand the power of courage. But most importantly, they must understand that being brave does not mean an absence of feeling scared or worried.
Bravery doesn’t mean that you’re never afraid — it means that you’re afraid, but you move forward anyway.
Learning to be brave means accepting fear and uncertainty and making a choice to face fears.
Steps to being brave
To help children make progress towards being more brave, try these 5 helpful steps:
- Admit feeling scared. When you try to push emotions away, they often just become stronger. Instead, help children to acknowledge the way they feel. We are better able to deal emotions when we’re honest about them. Help children to understand that everyone feel’s scared some times.
- Validate feelings. Help children understand that their emotions are normal. Fear originates in the amygdala, a region in the brain that releases stress hormones. It is linked to our primal emotions, and everyone experiences it. Help your child to accept and make room for the emotion. The aim is to not feel anxious or scared.
- Name the fear. Sometimes, we aren’t even sure what we’re afraid of. That uncertainty can increase anxiety, which then lead to more worry and can make us feel even more afraid. Take some time to explore the fear and give it a name, if it isn’t something specific you may give it a general name like ‘the worries’ or something silly like ‘Bob’ or whatever name your child comes up with.
- Examine the fears. We tend to be afraid when we perceive some harm or threat to ourselves (or others). Some fears are legitimate. Take a good look at your child’s fears and decide whether you think they’re helpful or harmful. Help them to understand the difference between a fear that is trying to protect us and a fear that is actually causing us harm by preventing us from fully living our life
- Focus on what they can control.You can’t help being afraid of something — it’s an emotional response. However, you can control what you do about it. Keep your child pay attention to their actions actions, not involuntary responses. Find ways to approach the fear, perhaps in small incremental ways rather than avoiding it.
Learning how to be brave can take time. Especially if anxiety has taken hold. It is important to check chipping away at it, bit by bit. But if isn’t working, it may be time to seek the help of a psychologists who can assist your child to be more brave.