Are You Instilling Healthy or Unhealthy Fears in Your Child? (Neurotypical Edition)

Are you instilling healthy or unhealthy fears in your child?

Are your child’s fears keeping them from playing outdoors? Taking calculated risks?

“A generation of children is not only being raised indoors, but is being confined to even smaller spaces. Jane Clark, a University of Maryland professor of kinesiology . . . calls them “containerized kids”–they spend more and more time in car seats, high chairs, and even baby seats for watching TV. When small children go outside, they’re often placed in containers–strollers–and pushed by walking or jogging parents. . . Most kid-containerizing is done for safety concerns, but the long term health of these children is compromised. (35)”

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

This week on the podcast, Amerey and Kathleen talked about healthy summer living/eating on a budget. They delved into the topic of healthy fears when discussing some outdoor activities. You can listen here.

I was at the beach with family. Two of my young granddaughters were playing in “pool” Graypaw dug them and gleefully screaming every time the surf washed into it, drenching them. A grandfather and his granddaughter stopped for a minute to watch. Then they decided to stay for a while. He sat on the beach with her on his lap as she watched my granddaughters will wild-eyed wonder.

“She’s afraid of the water,” the grandfather explained. “She won’t go near it. I just wanted her to watch some kids enjoy the beach without fear.”

Fear Has a Job

Fear – an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear isn’t a bad thing when it’s healthy. Fear’s job is to keep us safe. Fear stops us from doing things that will harm us. We would like our kids to fear jumping in the deep end of the pool when no one is around. We’d also like kids to fear running out into the road.

For years, my sister lived up a long lane connected to a busy road. Her young son loved to go across the gravel road and spend time talking to an elderly lady who was like a grandmother to him. They became concerned that he would go down the lane to the busy road and needed to tell him emphatically not to do that. His parents needed to instill a healthy fear.

Not long after that, a cat was run over on the main road. My brother-in-law walked my nephew down and showed him, saying, “The car smashed him flat!” It worked — my nephew told everyone about the cat and said the car could smash him flat, too. That’s a healthy fear.

How Do You Instill Healthy Fears?

“Fears can be healthy and children should be encouraged — and helped — to develop what Lucas calls a “sense of knowing” when something could bring harm. But parents should balance risks, fears and over-protectiveness with the importance of encouraging children to be independent and show initiative. ‘If a parent is present in their children’s lives, he or she is the child’s guide — not their guard,” she said. “If children grow up feeling confined, they are at risk to act out their parent’s greatest fears. Measured freedom is the best teacher.’”-  When Fear Drives Parenting What Happens to the Kids? from desertnews.com

Measured freedom and healthy fears don’t stop a child from exploring his environment. A toddler will climb a rock that is eight inches off the ground and yell, “Look at me!” A five-year-old will climb a bit higher and jump further. These kids try things that make their blood tingle with healthy fear, and that’s good.

My summer childhood days were full of outdoor fun. My brothers and sisters and I went creek jumping, rode our bikes around our country neighborhood, played for hours in a pine forest, and only went home for dinner. Then we went back outside for some kick the can and flashlight tag. I had plenty of fears, but none of them had to do with playing outdoors. I knew to stay away from the train track when I heard a train (okay, we put pennies on it and ran for our lives). We had no screens, phones, or other things to distract us from the joy of the outdoors.

“Years ago, children roamed their neighborhoods, often playing with any kids they ran into, choosing many activities on the fly as ideas presented themselves. Nowadays, parenting often defaults to a take-no-chances approach of scheduled play dates and supervised visits to the neighborhood park, offering little room for children to grow by exploring, which can spill over into other aspects of their lives.” – When Fear Drives Parenting What Happens to the Kids? from desertnews.com

Things have changed. Parents have more fears, and so do kids. Most people don’t live somewhere it is actually safe to send kiddos outdoors unsupervised for the day. This is where measured freedom comes in.

Take your kiddos to a creek, state park, lake, pool, or [fill-in-the-blank] and be present. Let your kids develop the sense of knowing they need to have healthy fears. There is nothing like a scraped knee or chin to let you know you jumped from too high a height. An ocean wave knocking you down in the surf tells a kid the ocean is fun and not to be messed with at the same time. Tromping across the creek and slipping on a mossy rock teaches a child that the green ones are slippery.

And guess what? You can totally do all of this with your child. No need to bring a chair to sit on. Lose your phone (except to take a few photos) and rejoice with your kids in their triumphs.

Don’t “help” children climb, jump or balance on objects. If you can resist assisting children, it will make their experience safer, as well as give them the opportunity to face challenges that are appropriate to thei.png

Don’t “help” children climb, jump or balance on objects. If you can resist assisting children, it will make their experience safer, as well as give them the opportunity to face challenges that are appropriate to their abilities. – Jason Runkle Sperling, author of Unplugged: How To Build A Family Nature Club

Instilling Unhealthy fears

One last thing: Don’t instill unhealthy fears in your child.

I know it’s hard. Some of us have generational fears. That’s not some spooky weird thing as if someone were chanting and cursing you. Fear can be a curse, but not in that way. I’ve met people who never learned how to swim because their parents were afraid of the water. We all know those parents (or are those parents) who helicopter over our kids telling them of all the horrible things that can happen to them if they go out the front door.

The most horrible thing about instilling unhealthy fears in your kids is that, to some degree, they will come true. They will fall off the swing, get stuck on the slide, and hurt their appendages on a trampoline. It’s going to happen. Instead of saying, “See, you can’t do that!” help the child work through the fear by letting them tell you what happened a few hundred times. Then put it into perspective.

I had an opportunity to help my niece work through a fear on a recent visit. She fell from a swing a few years ago, and although she didn’t break anything, it was painful. She told me she couldn’t swing high anymore because she was afraid. So, I talked her through it. I asked her some questions, let her answer, and then got on the swings with her. We swung really high. I even showed her how to hang upside down, and she tried it.

Effects of Unhealthy Fears

  • Kids won’t enjoy activities.
  • Kids will miss out and stay on the sidelines of life.
  • As adults, these kids will pass their fears on to the next generation.

Healthy Fears Checklist

  • Don’t be a fear-based parent.
  • Speak the truth. Don’t exaggerate what will happen if they _______.
  • Save the “you’re really going to get hurt” for the things that they really will get hurt on!
  • Let them fall from 8 or 12 inches when they are small. If you rescue them every time, they won’t develop healthy fears.
  • They will respect the physical laws of nature by incremental degrees if you give them measured freedom.
  • Don’t wait until they are 6 or 8 to let them hike, climb, etc.
  • Provide S.A.F.E. activities.

What are you waiting for? Go outside and play!

This week on the podcast, Amerey and Kathleen talk about healthy summer living/eating on a budget. They delve into healthy fears when they talk about some outdoor activities. You can listen here.

And be sure to check out Part 2 of this article: “Are You Instilling Healthy or Unhealthy Fears in Your Child? (Capital Letter Syndrome/Foster/Adoption Edition)”

 

Advertisements

Benefits of Nature for Children

“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” – Charlotte Mason

My family spend the day at Coopers Rock State Park on Monday and my daughters and I got in a conversation about Charlotte Mason and the benefits of nature. It wasn’t a new or original conversation for us. It’s one we have repeated, renewed and re-digested over and over. In this world of technology and sports, the benefits of the great outdoors is being missed and discounted by many.

Nature-Deficit Disorder

“Nature-deficit disorder is not a formal diagnosis, but a way to describe the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.” Richard Louv via www.psychologytoday.com

Children from hard places (such as an institution or multiple foster homes) need to be introduced to nature in a new way. Fears must be calmed. Kids need to feel safe and they need to learn to play in creative ways.

“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*Pics from our Coopers Rock Day

So, why take these nature deficient children outside? Why not keep them inside where it is safe and introduce them to some other advantages they had missed, like technology. Gaming, computers, internet, DVDS and not so dangerous occupations? Most importantly, nature has healing and restorative powers. The biggest issue these kids need to overcome is their faulty foundation concerning nature.

Just being outside does not give a child the creative playtime that they need for optimal development.

Most kids get the foundation of physical laws when they are toddlers. When a tow or three-year old climbs the first branch of a pine tree and fall six or eight inches, she gains a healthy respect for gravity. When a toddler eats a few bites of sand or dirt covered rocks, she sees minerals and elements for what they are- NOT FOOD. When a five year-old wades in the stream and slips on a moss-covered rock, he appreciates and knows intimately what slippery means. He may walk away with a couple of scrapes and some wet clothing. These experiences are priceless and, met with the proper reaction from parents, build a healthy respect and love of the outdoors. When kids are NOT introduced to nature at a young age, (like my adopted kids), there will be misconceptions, fears and bigger or more serious mishaps.

Fear should not keep your child from nature, from experimenting with its restorative powers, using all the senses, washing away all their cares, and developing a healthy respect for the laws of nature. It is especially important for children from hard places to get outdoors and experience creative play.

 “Do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them.” – Charlotte Mason

If your child is struggling with nature deficit disorder or has some major misconceptions about nature because he was an institution or busy just trying to survive in multiple placements, start small. Their fears may not seem real to you, but they are real to them. Go outside holding their hand. It may take weeks or months of this before the child feels safe enough to let go (true story). Watch the fireflies with them. Talk about it. Wade in the creek with them. Talk about it. Throw rocks in the river with them. Talk about it. Build a dam in the creek. Talk about it. Throw sticks in the creek and watch them float down stream. Talk about it. Jump over things. Talk about it.

“Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

I’m a Messy Mom

I (Amerey) am a messy mom. I’m sure most of you moms out there feel like this, I’m sure that you look around your house at least twenty times a day and say to yourself, “My house is so messy!!” Well, let me take a moment to explain to you why I look around my messy house and smile with relief.

IMG_0257

As a self-proclaimed messy mom, I don’t mind the toys strewn all over my floor, or the dust on the mantel piece, or the dust bunnies under the couch. And while I will admit that this would drive many moms crazy, I have worked hard in recent months to not worry about it. It seemed an impossible task to set aside the cleanness of my house. I grew up with a chore chart, my bed had to be made every morning, my mother never left for a trip without making sure we had a clean house to come home to. And while these were all GREAT life skills, ones that I will impart to my own children, I noticed that I was obsessing a little over everything in my house being straightened and put away, cleaned and swept, dusted and wiped down. My husband was the one that pointed it out to me. Evening after evening when he would come home from work I would apologize to him for the messiness of the house and he would always tell me it was perfectly fine (I have a great husband). I decided I needed to re-examine my motives for living day by day. Was my goal each day to have a clean house? What would I rather be doing with my time? What could I be spending my energy on instead? And of course, because I have a toddler, while all these thoughts were running through my head a small, high-pitched voice was calling to me outside of my head, “Mama, mama, mama…..MAMA! Mama DEEEEEESSSS.” (That’s how my 18-month-old pronounces “this.”)

IMG_0484

DES, or this, little girl is who made my impossible task oh so very possible. What is more important to an 18-month-old than playing with mama? NOTHING. I agree with you. You’re thinking of all the things you want your children to learn, all the tasks you want to become normal to them, and yet at this age how do they learn all those things? Through play. I am now a messy mom because I play with my little girl. Instead of just making the beds, Cecilia and I have fun throwing all the blankets and pillows on the floor and jumping on them, sometimes the bed gets made right after we’re done, sometimes it gets made later and the pillows and blankets sit on the floor for a couple hours. Instead of just unloading the dishwasher and trying to keep my daughter distracted, we now play the “thank you” game. Cecilia hands me piece after piece of silverware and she says, “daDA” every time. She takes bowls out and puts them away in the wrong place, she puts the tupperware things on her head, and we laugh and laugh and laugh. We make blankets into swings instead of folding them up, we sit down and pull all the books of the shelves and read every single one instead of putting them away, we take all the clothes out of the laundry basket and go for rides inside the basket. Everything is entertaining to her, everything is entertaining to me now. Sometimes all the tasks we “need” to get done that day get done, sometimes we only finish half of the ones that we start. Sometimes after we eat snack outside we see too many things down in the grass to do instead of taking our dishes in right away.

IMG_0495
Wearing Daddy’s underwear

I love being a messy mom. It has made my life so much easier and so much more enjoyable. And of course I want Cecilia to learn all of the things that I learned as a younger girl, but I also want her to grow up and have fun with her children and make all the same memories I am making with her. She is the reason I am a messy momma, she is my motivation to not clean everything all the time. I will play with her forever.

IMG_0478

After a morning of reading

IMG_0268

IMG_0280

IMG_0381

IMG_0436

IMG_0156

Nature Walk

Posted by PicasaThis is an old bunch of pictures that I made into a collage. I love this bunch of pictures because it reminds me of two things: our family’s habit to be outdoors and how we enjoyed ourselves in the midst of a painful situation. We had moved to Wheeling that year, leaving family and friends behind. Audrey started her freshman year at W.V.U.. We were having a difficult time fitting into the new homeschool co-op. The churches we tried didn’t have homeschoolers or had strange doctrine.
So, we struck out on our own, as a family. This particular weekend, Audrey was home. We decided to take a nature hike on the backside of Oglebay Park. Everyone had a blast. We came across a fawn sleeping on the trail. We found turkey eggs. Hunter captured a snake and a crawdad. God’s creation is amazing and it is therapeutic. As we tromped around the woods and in the creek, we forgot about our troubles and focused on what was right in front of us.
Richard Louv states in his book, Last Child in the Woods:

” Nonetheless, a growing body of evidence indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health. For example, new studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and that it can improve children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.”

Amazing! Being out in nature can do all that! God must have know that. He put Adam and Eve in a GARDEN! He didn’t put His first children in front of a TV or computer game. He didn’t give them a car or cell phone. WOW!
Yesterday, a friend of mine came over and we took a nature walk up the Criver (bigger than a creek, smaller than a river). Suddenly, we were pontytailed little girls, stopping and looking at granddaddy crawdads and multi-colored fish. We stopped to take pictures of everything including an old tar pit. Of course, we had to throw something in it. We completely lost track of time. When we finally arrived at our point of origin, two of our kids were busy catching crawdads, oblivious to the time themselves.
I am so thankful that my children have learned the habit of enjoying nature. I know that it has benefited them and me!

26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”Genesis 1:26-28

The Message