Why it's important to raise fearless children
Conscious Parenting is a weekly column in which Kavita Srinivasan explains parenthood, in the modern age
‘The only thing to fear is fear.’ I’ve heard this often. It didn’t sink in. Now, it does. I feel the truth of it in the pit of my stomach and in my heart. It sits in every thought, commanding and hard to ignore. I have seen children transform from carefree and fearless to nervous, anxious and paranoid. It’s sad to watch. Fear lives in our homes and try as we might to deny its presence, we can’t.
How is the pandemic impacting our children?
Dr Nicole Le Pera (@the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram), describes our nervous system’s state when we don’t feel safe, beautifully.
• Our ideal state is the ‘parasympathetic state’, when we feel “safe, social and able to connect”. It is in this state that our immune systems thrive and we can heal.
• When we are fearful, we enter a ‘fight-or-flight response’ or ‘sympathetic state’. Our immune system weakens and we are pumped with cortisol and adrenaline, urging us to take action and find safety.
Being afraid constantly is dangerous. You could attract the very thing you fear just by being in a panicked sympathetic state. Why? Your immune system is compromised and all your body’s resources are dedicated to making you flee to safety. But where do you go? The pandemic is everywhere… there is really no place where the stress disappears.
How each family has dealt with the pandemic is deeply personal and shows their relationship with fear
• Some families are out and about. They don’t want the vaccine and they go everywhere. Fear is a shunned guest in their homes. I’ve spoken to some of them. They only fear, fear. Their children are never masked and they attend school.
• Some families try to create a balance. They are vaccinated and try to avoid places that are too crowded, but they go out and try to live as ‘normally’ as possible. Their children above the age of three are only masked in public spaces and they attend school.
• Some families prefer to play it safe. They don’t go out to public spaces and their children are always masked. They don’t meet anyone without a mask and being socially distant. Their children learn online and stay at home.
There is no right or wrong. You have to do what makes you comfortable as a unit. The things to be aware of are these:
1) How much of your fear is stemming from the present moment, and how much of it is from the past?
If you have been brought up in a highly-strung, fear-struck environment, then your reaction will have more to do with the past than the present moment.
Sit in the fear, find its source, feel it so it can be released.
2) Beware of instilling deep fear in your children, especially if they are under seven years of age; the fear will settle in their subconscious and dictate their future. Healing from such deep-seated anxiety takes extraordinary amounts of work. Whatever your choice is, watch your anxiety and try to, as much as possible, allow your children to feel free of fear. Otherwise it will lord over every decision they make.
3) What are you afraid of? Write it down. Are you scared of illness? Being out of control? Death? Where does the fear stem from? When you figure out the root, sit in that pain. Release it. And now, enter the present… where are you NOW?
We are living in extraordinary times. As we are living in a fear-filled bubble right now, we need to ensure that our nervous systems are regulated. When our bodies feel safe, we create the power to heal from anything. No matter what choice you make, remember that the only thing to consider is: Why are you making that choice? To feel safe or because you’re scared of what lies out there? Ultimately, there is only one thing to fear: fear itself.