A few weeks ago, I sat in the driver’s seat while my son contemplated his choices. He was visibly stressed, and it was all too apparent that he was being pushed out of his comfort zone. I wondered whether he would decide to stay in the car with me or if he’d walk into the Martial Arts Studio without his uniform and risk embarrassment.
This scenario may sound trivial to us as adults, but I’m sure you can remember a time when you faced a similar decision and the only thing stopping you from taking action were the fear-generating thoughts in your head.
I had the option of making light of the situation by telling my son that it wasn’t a big deal and ask him to get out and go to class, but I knew better. Behind every fear is a deeper meaning. Eventually my son chose to participate in his class, largely because I followed a three-step process to help him make his decision.
Acknowledge the Fear and its Meaning
Support your child rather than make him feel guilty about being afraid. Instead of focusing on the fact that my son didn’t want to participate, I helped him dig deeper to discover the real reason why he didn’t want to participate. After some discussion, we confirmed he was fearful of the attention he would receive for forgetting his uniform. We discovered that he associated the potential negative attention with the idea that he wasn’t good enough.
Take the Truth Test
Once you can determine the source of the fear, the next step is to ask whether the source is true. My son and I explored whether forgetting his uniform meant he wasn’t a good boy. When we determined it wasn’t true, I saw his body relax almost instantaneously.
I encouraged him explore another perspective, one that had nothing to do with whether or not he was “good enough.” Why would kids laugh at him participating without a uniform? After some thought, he came to the conclusion that the kids could be laughing simply because it was a funny situation. They wouldn’t necessarily be laughing at him. After a few moments, even he started laughing out loud. He decided that the whole experience would be a funny story to share with friends!
Prepare for the Worst-case Scenario
Preparing for the worst-case scenario takes the pressure off while giving you a sense of control. My son and I took a few minutes to prepare for the worst-case scenario by coming up with a few strategies to deal with his insecurity.
- He could walk into the studio with confidence and a smile
- He could make a comment that he forgot his uniform rather than wait for someone else to notice and react
- He could gently laugh at himself
- He could to choose to welcome a few smiles and giggles from peers
Changing perspectives and breaking down the fear reduced the overwhelming feelings associated with the fear he was experiencing. In the end, my son participated in class and was proud of himself for facing his fears head-on. Even fear can present an excellent opportunity for self-awareness and personal growth!