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)”

 

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

 

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*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

Why Go Outside When All the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- for Kids (adopted, foster)

Hi, thanks for joining me. Positive Adoption is focusing on PLAY for the month of May. If you missed some posts, you can start with

Why Go Outside When the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- For Moms

and then check out

Take a Hike, Kid!

Congratulations to Lori Shaffer who won a copy of :cover

My adopted children had their beginnings in a culture where going outside was not only a necessity, it was a daily practice. Their orphanage was two kilometers outside a Sulejow, a small village in Poland. Moms went out and in the middle of December, wrapped babies tightly in blankets and put them in the stroller and set off for daily errands on foot.

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The children in the orphanage returned home from school and ate the main meal of the day about two in the afternoon and then headed outside to play at dusk. The sun set by 3:30, but this didn’t stop the playtime ritual. Outdoor play was the as much the norm in twenty degree weather as it was in warmer temperatures. Going outdoors was a way of life.

The kids went outdoors, but there wasn’t much time for creative play. there was no time to frolic in the woods, to explore a stream or build a fort out of sticks. The play of the orphanage resembled Lord of the Flies on the basketball court. There were no rules and not enough staff to pay attention to everyone or to ensure that every child went outdoors. Fifty-seven kids fought over a few sleds and threw rocks at each other while some children hid inside. The kids had a fear of the woods similar to that of the characters in M. Night Shyamalan’s, the Village. They stayed in the open expanse of the yard behind the orphanage. Both of to-be-Guire boys panicked when Jerry and I suggested a hike in the woods.

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

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

Once my new Guires came “home” to the states, fear ruled in erratic ways. I quickly learned my children did not understand the physical laws of nature and therefore could not play safely.

  • fireflies became giant trucks speeding down our meadow at them
  • a whirlwind of leaves became a tomato (tornado) causing hysterics
  • boots and other belongs were thrown in the creek and floated downstream never to be seen again
  • a child rode his brothers bike straight toward the trampoline and almost decapitated himself
  • a child started a forest fire with a stolen lighter and burned an acre of ground

I didn’t have a Rachel Lynde reaction, “Mark my words, Marilla. That’s the kind puts strychnine in the well.”

I didn’t think my kids were reckless deviants who would kill me in my sleep. NO, these were adventure seekers who didn’t get the foundations of nature in their early childhood. Every child naturally desires to explore the expanse of nature.

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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.

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. See the list above.

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 hurt children to get outdoors and experience creative play.

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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

Linking up with these lovely ladies today! Come join us!

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Why Go Outside When the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- For Moms

We Moms sat around the picnic table with coats wrapped tight and chatted between taking photos of our teens/tweens at the WVU Adventure Challenge Course. Our offspring scaled a tower and rappelled down while peers belayed them. Down in the lowlands it was a comfortable sixty-something while up in the highlands it was bone-achy cold and yet such an enjoyable day just being outdoors.  (Okay, I moaned a few times about needing a hot espresso, but other than that….)

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We Moms compared notes about our early outdoor experiences. We all had the common denominator of spending multiple hours outdoors (at our parents’ insistence). It was a building block of our childhood. We spoke of building pine needle forts, climbing trees while watching younger siblings, playing in the creek, eating lunch in an ancient graveyard. And the lists continued for hours. I picked their brains for this month’s focus on Positive Adoption- PLAY. 

“Many members of my generation grew into adulthood taking nature’s gift for granted; we assumed (when we thought of it at all) that generations to come would also receive these gifts. But something has changed. Now we see the emergence of what I have come to call nature deficit disorder.”- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

 Today, I want us Moms to chew on these questions: Why go outside when all the electrical outlets are inside? Why should moms play outside? Nature deficit disorder is not just for children, it affects us moms too!

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“In the space of a century, the American experience of nature has gone from direct utilitarianism to romantic attachment to electronic detachment.”- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

We live in a new era where yards are smaller, green space more limited in suburban and metropolitan areas. We have everything at our finger tips. YouTube and Animal Planet provide plenty of the footage of the wild world. Servants like dishwashers and clothes dryers do our dirty work. No need to pound the rugs outside with a rug beater when Mr. Dyson will do the work, we just have to plug him in and give him a little push. We can chat for hours with friends on our Ipads without ever stepping out the door.

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During my childhood years, my parents took us kids on five- and six-week vacations across the nation, from the east coast to the west in a VW van, camping in a tent most nights with an occasional hotel night. There were no electronics available. The places we went you couldn’t view online (there was no online, only real life). You had to go there. We threw snowballs in July in the Grand Tetons, stretched our bodies over New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado in the Four Corners, swam in frigid waters with pebbly beaches, watched Old Faithful erupt and stood face to rock face with George Washington,Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, at Mount Rushmore. From the Redwood Forest to the beaches of Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas, my family experienced it all.

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When we arrived home with Grandma in tow (we picked her up in Arizona), we aired out the tent and the sleeping bags,unpacked and got back to the outdoors, weeding the garden, moving, and my younger siblings’ favorite, catching crawdads in the creek. Then there was apple picking! My older brother climbed the tree while we girls held a sheet below. He shook the branches and apples rained down on us.

Fast Forward to my early Mommy years. I was home alone, with a baby in a townhouse, suffering from postpartum depression (though I didn’t know it at the time). I didn’t see the necessity of going outdoors. I had my childhood memories tucked safely away to pull out at will, but I didn’t really think about the message my parents taught me: Go outdoors, often. Unplug. I worked indoors with my servants and caught up on Brady Bunch reruns. Then one day, a wise, more mature Mama told me I needed to get outdoors to lift my mood and restore my sanity.

Outdoors I went, with kits, cats, sacks, baby and blankets to sit and enjoy nature. Jerry or I strapped Audrey on our backs while we hiked up back country roads. My mood improved. My house left behind, I enjoyed fresh air and gained a new outlook. Sticky floors didn’t bother me while I played outdoors. They were in another time and place indoors. And I started back down the road of my childhood, trading four walls for an expanse of sky, trees, birds and the gift of NATURE.

As I write this, I am sitting on my back deck, birds are chirping, my laundry drying in the sun and I don’t want to go back inside. Nature is my medicine. It calms me. It is my playground. Why do I go outside? To restore. Renew.

I logged fifteen miles of walking outside last week. It is my necessity, not my luxury. Nature sedates parts of me that need sedating and invigorates the parts of me that need invigorating. And the play in my flower garden, clipping a bouquet, pulling out weeds, eases the tension and brings my world back into perspective.

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.-e.e.cumings

Why do you go outside? What do you consider play outside?

Tomorrow,  we will be giving away a free copy of:

book coverSo join us for Totally Broke Tuesday and leave a comment to enter in the drawing! We will draw a name Tuesday at 3:00pm!