Imagine a bear trap closing on a human leg, bone crunching, blood spurting, immeasurable pain. Not to mention being stuck. Stuck in pain. Stuck in one place until someone comes and releases you from the trap.
What does a bear trap have to do with homeschooling? What doesn’t work for me is the comparison trap. It’s a lot like a bear trap. It’s buried, you don’t see it, but once you get caught in it, you are stuck and in immeasurable pain.
Four of my children are adopted and had traumatic beginnings. When they came home, their emotional ages and physical ages didn’t match up. Their development was delayed and each of them had some learning challenges, all of that topped with learning a new language. On a scholastic number line, they were in the negative.
Comparing a kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf. It drains the lifeblood right out of you.
I Was a Late bloomer
One night at the dinner table, Rafal shared that a boy in his Royal Ranger troop isn’t athletic and the commander encourages him along.
“I wasn’t that athletic as a child,” I replied.
“You weren’t?” he asked incredulously.
He was surprised. I roller blade, ice skate, swim, climb around on rocks with my kids. I’m still not coordinated, but don’t tell him.
I was a late bloomer. While my sister was ready to train for the Olympics in gymnastics, I was doing what I did best at the time- stumbling and falling on my face a lot!
“What did you do back then?” he asked.
“Well, I was little and skinny. So I RAN. AWAY, mostly from other kids.” Laughter.
AGes and Stages
Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates. Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays. Get help for your special needs child if you need to. Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him. I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children. I want my children to reach their potential. I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.
If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare. CELEBRATE!
If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid. CELEBRATE!
If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered it. CELEBRATE!
Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap. It’s a painful place to be, instead enjoy each age and stage your children are in!
What are some things you do to make your adopted/foster child feel at home?
“Top of it:Schedules.
Their own stuffed animal bought by us the day they arrive.
A light on at night.
An anthem.” – Paige Bowser
I asked Paige to explain the anthem, and she said, “A song. Let the older child pick a song that expresses what he feels. This becomes their anthem.”
“I’m not sure how to answer this. We have only had a couple of placements and they have been babies. We give hugs and talk softly. We give them a new blanket. We try to get to know them as soon as we can by watching carefully so they have a chance to teach us who they are, and then we meet them there.” – Rachel Eubank
“ I agree with Rachel. We first have to see how traumatized a child is. Comfort comes from different things for each child. I think the first thing we give each one is Space enough to catch their breath. An overwhelmed child can’t make healthy trusting connections. Honestly, You have to trickle your love and comfort Into their lives. They gradually begin to trust You. The second thing is a smile and words of comfort.” – Bob Eubank
Smiling is super important because kids will mirror you. Everyone feels stress when a kid is first coming into your home. Don’t let it show on your face. Smile.
Some things to consider when welcoming a child:
Toys. Some kiddos (mine included) have none when they come “home.”
Ownership. Having their own stuff when they come to your home is big deal.
A comfortable bed. Some kiddos have never had their own bed.
A backpack. We got L.L.Bean backpacks embroidered with the kids’ names when they came home through adoption.
Words of reassurance. We need to give words of reassurance such as, “So-and-so loved you so much that they bought you this gift.”
Consider the perspective of the child. Older kids are more aware of what is going on in the adoption/foster care arena, so they may be able to communicate their thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. Either way, it’s important to put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. Consider what they need and do it for them instead of for yourself.
Ten Practices to help your adopted/foster Kiddo feel welcome:
1. Calm fears. If kids don’t feel safe, they will act out in survival mode. Be aware of their past, and keep an eye out for triggers. You’re not always going to know why a child is afraid, but they almost always have a reason.
We all have fears, and even as adults, we sometimes can’t figure out where they came from. One of my fears is riding in the back of a car. It took me a long time to trace the fear back to after my parents’ divorce, when my dad would come to pick us up, load us into the back seat of his car, and start driving without giving us any information about where we were going.
2. Adjust the surroundings. You may have to adjust your surroundings for a season to help your new kiddos feel more comfortable. To them, you are weird, and your house is weird.
Even if a child was removed from an unsafe home, that doesn’t mean his home of origin didn’t feel normal to him. He’s still connected to it. Be more flexible than you are used to being. It will be chaotic for a while, and that’s ok. Helping your child achieve felt safety is worth it.
3. Be aware the child may have never been alone. My college roommate adopted a sibling group of three who had never been alone. For the first few years, they refused to sleep in their own rooms, opting instead to all share the same bed.
In cases of neglect, on the other hand, a child may be a little too used to being alone. It’s important to be aware of this and gently coax them into family time together.
4. Be prepared to adjust your menu. When we brought our four home, the youngest had a cleft palate. Getting nutrients into him became my second career. He was underweight, and because of his limited food choices in the orphanage, he wasn’t interested in eating anything new. I bought a food processor and pureed a variety of foods to meet his nutritional needs. It was a challenge.
After his cleft-palate surgery, he lost the ground we had gained in eating new foods after his month of liquids. One day at lunch, I stayed at the table with him, trying to get him to eat. All the other kids had left the table. I was so frustrated, I cried. I called a friend for prayer. Her husband answered the phone, listened, and prayed with me. Food challenges are real.
Yours might not be that extreme, but you still have to be flexible. You may find out your new kiddos refuse to anything spicy or that they hate peanut butter sandwiches or something else that’s a staple in your house.
5. Your child may miss friends (as well as family, which is a given). Be sensitive to that. Let them talk, and don’t take it personally. Missing their bio family, their old friends, and other parts of their past is natural. It’s not a comment on your abilities or value as a foster/adoptive parent. It’s not even necessarily a reflection of their thoughts or feelings about you.
6. Make sure your kiddos have plenty of snacks they can get to. In the orphanage, my kids didn’t always have the food they needed when they needed it. Kids from neglectful homes may have had a similar experience. You can alleviate the fear by having a snack basket within easy reach that they can access whenever they want.
7. Be sensitive to the clothing needs and the types of clothes your kids want/need. My kids had never owned a pair of jeans, so jeans were the item they wanted first.
8. Understand that their belongings have meaning, but they may not understand the value of things. Our kid came with nothing. Some kids come with a blanket or stuffed animal. Those belongings are important to them, even if they seem insignificant to you.
Keep in mind that kids who have never owned anything may not know how to take care of things. They may let something float downstream because they lack cause-and-effect thinking and don’t think about the fact that the item cost money.
Also, understand that if you put a high value on things, that will be tested by these kiddos. Remind yourself: “People are more important than things.” I reminded myself of this aloud so much that my kids repeated it to back me when something got broken.
9. Remember that your kiddos may need extra supervision, online and otherwise. In The Case of the Missing Person (more on that below), Sera is messaging people without her parents’ supervision or permission. All kids need supervision, but kids from hard places can get into trouble quickly and have trouble spotting dangerous situations.
One of my kids, for instance, started a forest fire out of a simple lack of understanding that lighting a fire in the woods is dangerous. The orphanage didn’t give them much practical experience with the great outdoors.
10. Schedules are security. They let kids know what will happen next, which is especially important to kids who find themselves suddenly in unfamiliar surroundings with complete strangers, as foster kids do.
If you’re not a schedule type of person, don’t worry! You don’t have to break your day into inflexible half-hour increments with every second account for. Instead, you can implement a general “first this, then that” routine. For instance, “after breakfast, we do chores” or “after lunch, we take a nap.”
The video below is an advertisement but paints a realistic picture of what happens when foster children come into your home.
Remember the weird things you had to tell your kids?
If you had biological children before you fostered or adopted, then you know you have to tell kids things you never thought you would have to say — like “Don’t lick the bathroom floor” or “Don’t lick your sister.”
Remember that, and apply it to foster kids. You don’t know what they have been taught about hygiene or whether they know the stove is hot. They may have been taught things that are not acceptable in your family culture. Don’t blame and shame the child for where they came from. Grace. We all have our perceptions of good and bad.
Assume that they know nothing — not as though they are stupid, but in the sense that they weren’t raised in your family culture. The first few times they do something “wrong,” assume they really didn’t know any better. Don’t assume they are being intentionally defiant or trying to push your buttons. They may just not know that something is annoying, generally frowned upon, “gross,” or “bad.”
Also, be specific in your instruction. Remember that it’s easier for kids to process positive instructions (“Do this”) than negative ones (“Don’t do that”). Instead of saying what you don’t want them to do, take some of the guesswork out and let them know that they should do. For example, you could say, “Use your inside voice” instead of “Don’t yell!”
Excerpts From The Case of the Missing Person
In the podcast, we mentioned The Case of the Missing Person — a book I wrote about a girl named Sera who is adopted through the Colombian hosting program (more info about that program here). The following scene describes her thoughts on coming “home.”
“Let me show you your room, Sera,” Clare said. I mean Mom. I couldn’t get used to that. I had spent my first eleven years in Colombia without a mother. I had come to the Craven family as part of the Colombian hosting program. Through that program, I had stayed with the Cravens for three weeks. The Cravens had decided to adopt me. I was glad. Most of the time.
Right now, I was scared out of my wits. There was no going back to Colombia now. It wasn’t perfect there, but it was all I had ever known. Now I was here in the U.S. in a home I would be in forever. FOREVER.
The house was nice. Clare liked white. A lot. White walls. White cabinets. White furniture. There were a few colors in pictures on the walls. Totally different from the bright colors in the orphanage. Sunshiny yellows. Oranges. Terracotta tile floors. My room was white too. White bunk beds. Those were new.
“What do you think?” Clare, I mean Mom, asked.
“It’s very white,” I said quietly.”
You can listen to the first chapter of The Case of the Missing Person below:
Kristin and I take a few random moments in this week’s podcast episode and respond to some of the criticism we recieved about this article. One theme was that we shouldn’t see our adopted/foster kiddos as a ministry. Our response?
Whatever we put our hands to is a ministry.
We aren’t running around John 3:16 ing everyone. I didn’t to adopt to have a ministry. I love my kids. They are a priority to me. I’m very protective of them. I don’t share their stories. Those are there own.
Another theme was – all parents need support to an extent.
All parents need support to an extent. Fostering is different. It’s harder. You can’t plan a vacation. You can’t take them to get a haircut. There is so much added stress. The visitation is planned according to the the availbility of bio family, not foster family or the child. Saturday-
Another theme was -Reunification should be the goal.
Culturally, that is not always a good goal anymore. Drugs, alcohol abuse is prevalent and our culture has changed. There has been a moral downward shift in our culture
It is not always in the best interest of the child to be reunified. Keep children in mind first.
In a culture that worships perfection, we women struggle with creating perfection in our homes. We follow Instagram accounts, hang on Joanna Gaines’ every word, and watch HGTV to make sure we are keeping up with the latest trends. (Raising my hand here.)
I love home design. I love making my home look beautiful. But here’s the catch: I can get caught in the trap of thinking the only thing my home can or should be is perfect. Or I can go to the other extreme and think my home is completely utilitarian. It’s just a place where the food is stored, our beds await, and the TV resides. Either extreme will leave me feeling empty and frustrated all the time.
Our culture has lost sight of a home’s purpose. It’s all too easy to put interior design on a pedestal and worship it. (God forbid we have an outdated avocado colored bathtub!) We get embarrassed when our home doesn’t look like the Instagram accounts we follow, so we don’t invite people over.
Can I share something with you? That was me. I cried over a shower color and shape. Yep. Actually cried real tears and begged God to replace the gold shower/tub combo in my master bathroom. My home had become my idol.
An idolater is someone whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God.
After living in a new home and then a farmhouse that we remodeled ourselves, we bought a home that needed a lot of work inside and out. A job change, a Job syndrome, and now limited finances had landed us here. The things we fixed first on our non-existent budget were not visible things. They were necessary fixes that didn’t make the home look beautiful — things like safer outlets in the kitchen. You get the picture.
So, here I was, crying over a gold bathroom. One morning, I was getting ready for church and showering and blubbering about not being able to remodel, and the Holy Spirit prompted me to thank God for the gold shower/tub combination. I did it with tears dripping down my cheeks.
In the fall of that year, I hosted Thanksgiving (as per norm). I was embarrassed to be hosting in a home with one brown bathtub and one gold one. Wallpaper was peeling off the walls. An avocado shower sat in a basement bathroom that was more like a cave.
Despite my embarrassment, it turned out to be one of the best holidays ever. My house was full of immediate and extended family from near and far away. No one complained about the wallpaper or the color of my bathroom showers/tubs. We enjoyed our time together.
All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. – Proverbs 15: 15
The point? God needed me to tear down the idol of my home. It needed to be knocked back into place.
When your home becomes an idol as mine did, then perfection becomes the goal instead of comfort. Ask yourself this question right now: Have I made my home an idol?
Remember Your Home Has a Purpose
Homes are gathering places. Places of connection. There is a science to running a home, and there’s an art to keeping a home. Believe it or not, your home can be a work of art when you have a gold bathtub. In case you are wondering, it was another ten years before I was able to replace the gold and brown in my bathrooms. And yet, I hosted holidays, birthdays, cookouts, book clubs, swim days, Bible studies, and more during those ten years.
Making my home an idol impaired my ability to make my house a haven. It became a shrine. That day when I thanked God for my gold bathtub/shower combination while crying was a starting point. It was a seed.
I used to believe that my home had to be perfectly put together in order to invite people over. For many years, I was able to achieve that in other homes. I believed that lie and practiced it until it became truth. When my world bottomed out and we moved into a home that I couldn’t make look perfect (according to my standards), I felt empty. Useless. Unable to function. I ranted, raved, and cried.
Take what you have and make it beautiful
Here’s the thing: My personality didn’t change. I learned to live with a gold shower, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a desire to have a beautiful space. I think it’s an innate feature in women. We love beauty in our homes. We each define it differently, but the desire is there. It’s a god-like attribute.
*These are some photos of my home now after years of sweat equity. I couldn’t find a picture of the gold bathtub or get a great picture of updates in bathrooms!
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God makes all things beautiful in their time. God gave each of us the desire for beauty. To answer that desire, He has created beauty all around us in nature, from the flowers and trees in your backyard to the diverse geography around the world. In The State of the Arts, Gene Edward Veith Jr. says that art is simply copying the Creator. He adds:
“The God-given capacity to make things is the essence of art.”
When we desire to surround ourselves with beauty, we are copying the Creator. Some religions would argue with this and say that we are supposed to deny ourselves any joy in our surroundings. I disagree. When we surround ourselves with beauty, it makes us feel alive. We feel refreshed after a walk in the woods — why wouldn’t we want to bring that beauty into our homes?
So what are some simple ways to beautify your space?
One of my favorite things to do is rearrange my furniture. This habit may be attributed to the many times we moved in my childhood, but I consider it a great habit. Rearranging my living room gives it a fresh look and gives me a new perspective. It only requires some muscle on my part (and a little help from whoever I drag into the mix).
Rearranging is a simple way to refresh your space. Try it!
Get a new perspective
After living in the house with the gold tub for a few years, I was still despairing over the fact that it would never look “good.” My kids and I had done a lot of projects that required little or no money. We took down wallpaper. Painted walls. Cleaned the basement. Scrubbed the tile in the basement that hadn’t been cleaned properly in a long time.
In my mind, I still had a picture of a dilapidated home — more of a shack than a home. But it wasn’t a shack at all. It was a solidly built colonial. The mind can play tricks on us!
My sister-in-law was in for the holidays and she mentioned a course she was taking. One of the assignments was to take pictures of each room in your home. The goal was being grateful and getting a better perspective. I was intrigued by the idea but didn’t think I would see anything different than I saw in my mind’s eye.
After the holidays, I cleaned each room, making sure there was no clutter on surfaces. I pulled out my camera and got to work. I took photos of each of the rooms from many angles. I loaded them on the computer and scrolled through. The rooms looked amazing. Beautiful. I was shocked. Astounded, really. How could this be? My home looked nothing like the pictures I had imprinted on my brain.
I wanted to make sure what I was seeing was accurate so I called my husband over. I scrolled through the pictures without saying anything. I wanted his reaction to be his own, not based on what I said.
“Wow! That’s gorgeous. Whose house is that?”
“That is our house.”
“No way!” He clicked through the photos again. “I had no idea our house looked that great!”
His perspective had been skewed like mine. In our mind, we were seeing the baseboards that needed fixing, the marks on the hardwood, or the infamous gold tub. We didn’t know what other people were seeing until we looked at those photos.
Perspective makes a big difference.
Try the exercise yourself. Maybe your home is not clean right now, so don’t stress. Wait until it is, or make an appointment with yourself to clean and take photos. If you have lots of littles underfoot, try one room at a time. Shove everything into another room or corner if you have to.
The purpose is not to be fake for an Instagram account. The purpose is to get perspective. Try to wait until you have all the rooms photographed and then look. I know it’s tempting to want to look as you go. Try to wait. Look at each picture and record your perspective. Let your hubby look too. Then go ahead and post it on Instagram and see what your friends think.
I can’t promise you it will look like something straight from HGTV, but I can promise it will give you perspective. Looking at your home through the lens of a camera can give you fresh eyes. You can replace the hypothetical you have floating in your mind with actual photos and move on from there. Maybe the pictures will give you ideas about what things really need changing (and which things look fine the way they are).
I’ll admit I still struggle with the perspective issue. When someone is coming over for the first time, I have a case of last-minute panic. I suddenly see the grime in the faucet creases or the spot of coffee on the floor. Instead of looking at my house as I whole, I see the little bits of dirt or imperfection. It’s silly, but worth mentioning.
We do the same thing with ourselves. When we become more comfortable with people, we don’t mind our imperfections as much. So, if you come to my house regularly, you know where the coffee and mugs are. You can even make yourself a peanut butter sandwich if you want.
Do you love your home but have a few things you would like to update?
Want to add some color and comfort to your home but don’t know where to start?
Are you afraid of colors and tones?
Not sure what your overall style is?
Then this is for you!
This week on the podcast, Kathleen and special guest, Brandi Panson talk about having a peaceful atmosphere and lessons learned from a remodel. Below are just a few of the points discussed on the podcast, which you can listen here.
Once you start one project, it’s a domino effect.
Brandi started her home remodel with the intention of “just” redoing the floors. That led to a whole house remodel. One house project almost always leads to another, and once you start, it’s a domino effect. That’s part of why every project takes four times the amount of time you think it will.
There will always be trends.
It’s important to find out what your style is before you move forward with any project. Joanna Gaines ushered in a farmhouse style, but she is also quick to point out that there are many other styles. Trends will come and go, but style lasts forever. Just because something is on-trend doesn’t mean you need to have it in your house.
Figure out what your style is first. Then you will be able to pick out items for your home.
When you find something, you will know immediately whether it will fit in with your style or not.
For more info, check out Joanna Gaine’s book, Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave.
“Gaines sets out six core design styles — farmhouse, modern, rustic, industrial, traditional and boho — then delivers detailed definitions and keywords to help you hone in on the one that best represents you.” – housechronicle.com
Keep true to you! Your home should reflect you and not an HGTV celebrity.
Think with the end in mind.
If you don’t think with the end in mind, you will just end up with chaos. Don’t go on Pinterest until already have a pretty firm idea of what you want. Otherwise, you will begin to experience decision fatigue. If you have the end idea in mind and your style all set, then these decisions will fall into place. It will still take energy, but not as much as it would if you had no end goal.
That’s what Brandi was doing for four or five years — just buying a new couch or picture and contributing to the chaos.
And remember that just because you built it that way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
It’s okay to ask for help!
Find someone who is good at design.
Brandi found Karen Jobe, who paints cabinets and has a flair for design. She helped Brandi find her style.
Be okay with thinking outside the box.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. It’s okay to recycle and reuse something old to have a new look.
Kathleen painted her old oak floors with Annie Sloan Chalk paint and polyacrylic on top (read more here).
If your budget is tight, you can do some projects at home.
Go to vintage shops, antique stores, flea markets, and yard sales. Keep your style and end in mind while you shop.
Make home decor yourself. If you are afraid to go it alone, find a friend and do them together.
Color Tones matter
I say on the podcast that some friends ask me for advice on colors. We’ve all been in those homes that had different color tones in every room. That used to be me. Even though I laugh about it now, tones were something that scared me. I played around with color a lot. It was bright in my home and not light bright. I messed up a lot, but that’s okay — I learned.
Hundreds of gallons of paint later, I have a feel for what works (most of the time). I’m not the only one who felt this way.
“When Chip and I started taking on projects around Waco, I was new to the world of interior design. At the time choosing the right paint colors seemed to be the scariest decision of an entire renovation.” – Joanna Gaines
“Understanding how colors interact is crucial when you set out to decorate your home. How colors interact, or color harmony will make any room look like it’s posing for a magazine. No matter how tolerant we are, some colors are just not meant to be used together, and they will literally feel like an eye-sore. On the other hand, there are groups of colors that make particularly appealing combinations, and luckily, there are some strict rules governing their selection. It all boils down to a color wheel and the basic color theory.” – visualhunt.com
The right tones create an atmosphere of peace. When your kids have more peace, you’ve hit the mark. We want our home to be beautiful and feel homey at the same time. Paint is a good — and relatively inexpensive — expensive place to start. You may not be able to do a remodel, but you can do something that makes you feel as if you have put your style into your home.
If you need a place to start – Declutter!
Clutter makes me feel anxious. How about you? Fortunately, decluttering is free! It brings peace with only a little sweat equity.
Sometimes we don’t need to do an extensive remodel or even paint. Some days we just need to find the floor. Decluttering is the least expensive (although still labor-intensive) fix. Some of us find that our home becomes beautiful, welcoming, and homey after we simply declutter!
I am Brandi Panson, 40-year-old wife to Paul, Mom to Luke and Maggie, business owner, chaos coordinator, animal lover, aerial enthusiast, and farmhouse fanatic!!
The best way to wrap all those titles up in a fancy bow? I am Brandi Panson… Mom-preneur. Being a mom is my most valued position and comes first in everything I do. 😉
We live in Morgantown, West Virginia in our newly renovated twelve-year-old home. Although we are incredibly busy, we still try to enjoy every moment as much as possible. You can follow me on several platforms:
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)”
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 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.