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)”

 

Healthy Summer Living With a Capital Letter Syndrome

This week on The Whole House podcast, Lori and Kathleen talked about Healthy Summer living with a capital letter syndrome. Whether you’re an adult with a capital letter syndrome or have a child with one, summer means change. To help prepare, we wanted to look at some healthy ways to cope with the changes summer brings:

  1. Keep a schedule.
  2. Harness the power of habit.
  3. Prioritize S.A.F.E. activities.

“The brain needs safety and involvement for positive learning experiences. If little children are not motivated to learn, check how safe they feel.” – James M. Healy, Ph.D., author, and educator

Remember that kids need to feel safe to enjoy learning and play. In the acronym above, “SAFE” stands for “Sensory-motor, Appropriate, Fun, and Easy.” Here’s what that means:

S: Sensory-motor

“Kids who are out of sync may have difficulty making the sensory-motor connection. Because their best attempts are often inadequate and unsatisfactory, these children may give up trying or simply lose interest. They may opt for sensory activities that require negligible motor response, such as watching television, listening to music, or reading. The gap between sensory input and motor output widens because the less they do, the less they may be able to do.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

It’s important not to fall into the trap of doing whatever the child wants to do simply because it’s easier or because he balks at going outdoors. The more sensory activity a child has, the better prepared he will be to function in real life.

When a child becomes conditioned to perfection or comfort in his environment air conditioning, a comfy chair, a screen to entertain him he will be less flexible and unable to adapt when circumstances aren’t just right. That’s a recipe for disaster.

People with capital letter syndromes are less flexible naturally, so why not take some time and work on flexibility when you have the opportunity to? We’ve all heard the complaints: It’s too hot. I’m bored. Can we go in yet? In response, you can alleviate a bit of the discomfort, set a time frame for how long you’ll stay outside, or provide a game (water games are great for hot days).

A: Appropriate

Sensory seekers will go for daredevil experiences, while sensory avoiders will shun activity. It’s important to find appropriate activities for both. I raised one of each of these. The challenge is keeping the sensory seeker safe and the sensory avoider playing with the rest of the kiddos instead of standing on the sidelines.

“So when a sensory seeker clambers to the diving board although he can’t swim, we must rechannel his out of sync behavior.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

We must give the sensory-avoider a chance to practice new activities privately so she doesn’t just stand on the sidelines watching.

At our family camp, the kids were jumping rope and playing while my daughter stood with her eyes downcast and shoulders slumped. She was afraid to try after tripping on the rope one time. I took her to the other side of the house, and we practiced alone until she could manage jumping successfully. She joined the cousins with a smile on her face and jumped rope with them.

You’re doing your sensory-avoiding child a disservice if you don’t find ways to help them participate in sensory activities and feel successful.

F: Fun (Functional and Family Builders)

“When the child experiences challenges to which he can respond effectively, he has ‘fun’.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

While a child is having fun, he is experiencing sensory integration. This is functional activity that will provide skills for adulthood.

We all want our kids to play, cooperate, and get along — but are we modeling that for them? Are we showing instead of telling? It’s fun and simple to show. Have a squirt gun battle with your kids and be prepared to get wet. Play “Mother May I?” and don’t cry when you have to go back to the beginning. Play hide and seek. Have a crab-walk race, a sack race, or a human wheelbarrow race. These are all functional, family bonding activities!

E: Easy (Economical, Environmentally Friendly, and Emotionally Satisfying)

Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! You can create loads of fun for your family in your own backyard or in a creek, stream, or lake. Check your area for trails to hike or bike. Look around for access to a creek. Go creek walking. Skip stones. There is something so emotionally satisfying about skipping stones! I am not great at it, but my kids are!

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is emotionally satisfying. I would put that at the top of the list.

“The activities should be easy enough for your child to taste success. When they are too challenging, your child may resist doing them. Think of how frustrating it is to be a child who wants to have fun, wants to please you — and can’t.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

Also, make sure you take the time to discern the child’s fear level. If it is high and you know he would really enjoy the activity and have success, gently push. By gently, I mean comfort and coax with a calm voice. Don’t yell, “You’re going to do this or else!” Say, “Let’s just try this for a couple of minutes. I’ll hold your hand. See, you’re doing it.” Some parents struggle with being sweet when they just want the kid to JUST DO IT!

Here’s a good self-check: ask yourself how you would want to be treated in this situation. Even if you are an adventure-seeker who is afraid of nothing, do you enjoy put-downs, yelling, or belittling?

Here’s a good example. My niece was visiting, and we took her creek walking. This was her first time. She was about 7 years old and was used to city living. Creek walking is a Guire tradition. It’s super simple and free. You just put on old tennis shoes or rubber boots and walk in the creek. You can catch craw-dads or just enjoy the walk.

This was all new to my niece. She was afraid — understandably so. You may be reading this, thinking, That’s just a weird thing to do. She thought so. I asked her to try for a few minutes and held her hand. After those few minutes, she let go of my hand and thoroughly enjoyed the day. After fifteen minutes, she took the lead!

I’m not saying every child will obtain this level of competence, but every child can have an emotionally rewarding experience. Some kids may need you to hold their hand the whole time. That’s okay. Meet the child at their level.

One final thought: Don’t take resistance as a “no.” There are many interpretations of resistance. It may mean, I’m afraid, I don’t think I can do this, or I have never done this before. Some of the activities my kids resisted as young children are their fondest memories as adults.

So what are you waiting for? Get outside!

For more help, check out this video: A Sensory World Preview.

 

* The S.A.F.E. Acronym is from The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun. This is a great resource book full of fun stuff to do with any child!

Episode 73

 

 

What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?

I’ve long held the belief that adoptive/foster parents are missionaries. When I tell people about our international adoption, I like to say that not only did I visit the country, but I also brought some natives home.

This true for all adoptive/foster parents. We don’t clock out and go back to our dorm or hut or whatever the missionary lives in. We also don’t get on a plane and go back to the comfort of our own home.

What if We Treated Foster Parents as Missionaries_

As foster or adoptive parents, our home is a long-term (forever) mission base. We bring these kids who have been discarded by the culture, hurt by their parents, and harmed by trauma into our homes. There is rarely a respite.

I talked to Elizabeth King, a full-time missionary with twenty-two years under her belt. When she and her husband were presented with the opportunity to adopt two girls, they said, “More ministry? Yes!” They were up for it. Hadn’t they been practicing this for years? She says:

“But we were not really ready for the total onslaught of doing ministry right from the very core of who we were. Always before we had ministered outside of our home or had temporary visitors in our home. Our residence was a place of refuge from the rigors of ministry. But now, by accepting these broken girls into our lives – there was nowhere left to retreat to. Nowhere to relax. No escape from the desperate needs and destructive behaviors of the two hurting souls. We found that all our weaknesses, which we could hide pretty well in the course of normal ministry, were now staring us in the face every day.”

If we change the way we think about adoptive/foster parents and slide them into the missionary category, there will be changes in four areas:

Our Prayers

First, adoptive/foster parents will be prayed for more often. Think of how often we pray for missionaries. We tack their photos up on the fridge to remind us to pray for them daily. If we see adoptive/foster parents as missionaries, we will do the same for them.

  • Pray for safety. Adoptive/foster families need a hedge of protection prayed around them. They are in the midst of a battle.

“The protection of children isn’t charity. It isn’t part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It’s spiritual warfare.” – Russell Moore

  • Pray that they can minister the gospel. It’s tough to be in the middle of the battle and keep ministering the gospel at the same time. While there may not be actual bullets or bombs, foster and adoptive parents face many spiritual and emotional battles.
  • Pray that adoptive/foster parents will be able to teach and reach across cultural lines. Kids that have come from hard places have come from a different culture. Many of them have come from a culture of abuse and neglect. They don’t speak the same language or believe the same things. Most often when a kiddo is being fostered and he is brought to church with the family, the assumption is that he will immediately speak the language of religion. He won’t.
  • Pray that “the natives” will trust them enough to listen. Once these kiddos walk through the doors of our homes, we expect them to feel safe and secure and attach immediately. They won’t — and beyond that, they can’t. When kids come home through foster care or adoption, the foster parent isn’t automatically held in high esteem. Mom and dad aren’t regarded as trustworthy. They may be viewed as just another pit stop for kids with a garbage bag full of belongings. These kiddos may be thinking that these people will hurt/abandon/molest them too. These kiddos have never felt safe. Why would they feel safe with foster or adoptive parents they just met?

“With “normal” families, you can assume that if they haven’t asked prayer for something specific, they probably don’t have any really urgent needs. But foster/adoptive families kind of habituate to a higher level of chaos and urgency, and you feel like this is what they signed up for, so they won’t usually ask prayer for specific things.” – Kristin Peters, adoptive parent

Our Expectations

If we really, fully understand the full-time ministry that is fostering or adopting, we won’t be shocked when these families aren’t at church every Sunday. We would just assume they are doing their job.

Sometimes foster/adoptive parents are so deep in the trenches, they can’t escape. They’re working so hard on attachment with these kids that any break — even just to come to church — can destroy the work they have done. When my newbies first came home, we didn’t go to church or homeschool group for a while. After a while, I heard the gentle grumblings of the leadership wondering when I was coming back to teach.

When we did come back, I kept my kids with me. It was my primary job to attach to them. All of my other commitments were secondary.

Our Contributions

If we view foster and adopted parents as missionaries, we will do everything we can to make sure they are equipped spiritually, emotionally, and physically before going on their “mission.”

When my family traveled to Poland to adopt our four, we had Rubbermaid containers of supplies, suitcases, and books. On the second trip, the children’s church filled those same containers with supplies to leave at the orphanage for the kids and staff.

Missionary families need physical supplies. They also need training. Would you travel to another country to preach the gospel if you didn’t speak the language or at least have an interpreter? And wouldn’t you go to a Christian source for training instead of a secular one?

So, why don’t we offer spiritual and physical training from a Christian perspective for our adoptive/foster missionaries? It does exist. Why not offer it within the four walls of the church?

Our Involvement

Finally, if we view foster/adoptive parents as missionaries, we will consider it an honor to invest in their journey.

“God asks us to reach out to those who need Him. Adoptive families have done this in a more sacrificial way than most people could even comprehend. It is the right thing for the body of Christ to support those who have given themselves so fully to the care of the little ones God has sent them.” – Elizabeth King, missionary and adoptive mom

This is probably the most difficult one for the body of Christ to swallow. I’ve been told that since I chose to adopt, I just need to suck it up, so to speak. In case you are wondering, I did not receive or ask for money from the church to fund my adoption. But I sure wish it were available for other families. We pay monthly support to missionaries so they can do their thing. Why not do the same for foster/adoptive families on some level?

And there are other ways to invest in foster care/adoption, too.

“You’re either called to bring a child into your home or support those who do! – Real Life Foster Mom

You can take them dinner, offer to babysit, buy school supplies, get them a gift card, buy Christmas gifts, or — my favorite — take a foster/adoptive Mom out for coffee and LISTEN. Not all investments require tons of money. What they do take, however, is time. Sacrifice a bit of your time for those who have surrendered all of theirs.

“Adoptive parents are like missionaries on steroids. There is no furlough from this job, no let-up in sight. If missionaries should be honored and supported, adoptive families – especially those who have adopted children from trauma – need our love, our respect, and our support just as much – and likely more. Maybe finances aren’t an issue. But finding time for friendship when you know your friends will never understand what you’re going through anyway and the demands at home are overwhelming – it’s just so hard.” – Elizabeth King

 

 

 

What Sunlight Does for My Body

* by Jessica McHugh, NASM – CPT

In this week’s podcast, Kathleen and I (Jessica), talk about the importance of outdoor activity for our families. We touched on the subject of Vitamin D and the ever-growing number of people who are deficient of this vitamin. An increase in indoor working hours, the lack of outdoor activity for most people, and the overuse of sunscreen have contributed to a skyrocketing number of people experiencing health effects from this deficiency. Myself included.

Winter is not my jam. My body cannot stand the frigid cold, and my body NEEDS sunlight. The never-ending gray days of winter leave me with severe fatigue, joint pain, and seasonal depression. I try to sit under an infrared light as much as I possibly can, but it’s not the same as the sun at all.

We were very blessed with an amazing week of weather last week, so I was able to work outside in the sun for at least 60 minutes a day, and my body responded so very well! I went all week with the most energy I’ve had since last fall. I didn’t need my usual afternoon nap like I tend to require when the skies are gray. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I know my body, and I know it needs sunlight to function well. All of ours do. It is the way our bodies are designed. Isn’t it crazy that the best way to absorb Vitamin D cannot be found in a supplement but can be found by stepping outside, baring our chest & arms, and letting the warmth of the sun work its magic?

I know that there are times where the sun is not accessible. So what do we do then? We listen to our bodies. We rest when our bodies need rest. An infrared light can be a great asset if your body is rebelling because of the lack of sunshine. I bought mine at Tractor Supply Company. But honestly, GET YOURSELF OUTSIDE.

 

Want to hear more about this topic? Grab a cup of coffee and join us on this week’s podcast:

Episode 72

Moms Managing Stress During the Summer Season

* by Jessica McHugh

As a young mother, I never gave a second thought to managing my stress — OR my kids’ stress — during the summer (or any time, really, to be honest).

I was on edge the majority of the time, our schedules were packed with activities from those Pinterest summer bucket lists, we were exhausted, and it wasn’t working out as Instagram suggested. Something had to give, and my stress was number one on the list.

The last couple of years, not managing my stress has been detrimental to my health. I’ve had to learn and focus on maintaining my inner peace to minimize the number of autoimmune flareups I have. I can’t prevent them all, but I’m surely going to do my best.

When Kathleen and I were discussing topics for our Healthy Summer Living month, I knew I wanted to have an open conversation about managing your mom stress. Why? Because anytime you’re dealing with children and their schedules/routines get thrown for a loop, there’s going to be extra stress — sometimes a lot of it. If we can’t manage the extra stress of summer, we can’t help our littles manage it. And littles who can’t manage stress grow up to be adults who can’t manage stress (it’s a vicious cycle).

Here are a few things that have helped me keep cool during the stay at home summer months:

Keep It Simple

Try letting your summer happen organically. Instead of having those summer bucket lists laminated, try going with the flow. Don’t sweat every single detail trying to make perfect memories. You’ll miss the small, perfect memories happening right under your nose. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.

Find Time to Do What You Love

Our summer days are longer, but they seem to be over before we know it. With the kids out of school, it can feel like there’s no time for “you.”

Sound selfish? I thought so too, at first. But getting 10-45 minutes a day to feed my soul only serves the greater good of my household. When I give myself time to do things like devotionals, worship, and read, I equip myself for the days ahead. It’s long-term therapy, really.

Enjoy It

Remember — why stress today when tomorrow isn’t promised? You only have 17 summers with your children. Do you really want to spend those stressed out? Your kids will remember your presence. It doesn’t much matter what else you’re doing.

We would love to know how you manage your stress during the summer months!

 

Want to hear more about this topic? Grab a cup of coffee and join us on this week’s podcast:


Jessica is a daughter of God, wife, mother, and entrepreneur – in that order. Her room has, at times, been her stronghold. This has left her feeling obligated to share her struggles along with her victories to help others attempting to overcome the same hurdles. She specializes in helping women practice self-love through movement & self-awareness. It took her a long time to see herself through the eyes of Christ and if she can shorten that duration for others, she’s living her purpose.