Giving kids the confidence to face their fears
This is Everyday Feels, a podcast about emotions for kids and their grownups. In each episode, Nakita Simpson and Dr. Lockhart explore a new emotion, breaking down why we may be feeling that way.
Nakita: So we're going to discuss what happens when you start out feeling one emotion and then it shifts. We’ll talk about why that happens and what it all means. Are you ready?
Ann-Louise: I sure am. Are you?
Nakita: Speaking of feeling these shifting emotions, I think it's time we heard from Leo, who has a story to share about feeling fearful and then experiencing that shift.
Leo is 8 years old. Let's listen to him.
Leo: Hi! My name is Leo, and I’m 8 years old.
So there’s this one time where I was kinda scared. And it was my first roller coaster ride. For some reason I thought it would be fun, but then I was really really scared for some [reason], I don’t know why.
But then I went to the other rides and they were more fun, and then I got more confident to get into the other rides that I was scared of.
I also felt like I was gonna fall off of the rollercoaster thing and then throw up….So here’s the thing, I’m not afraid of planes, but I’m very afraid of heights when it’s going fast and up and down.
The emotions that I was feeling were like sad, scared, frustrated kinda, because I really wanted to go on the ride, but I was like, I can’t go on this ride. I’m just, yeah.
And then I took the ride again after I took those other rides and it went well. And I felt better.
Yeah, I went on the other rides and then I went back to this ride, and I felt more confident and it worked. And I felt happy again and confident and I wanted to go on other rides now.
Ann-Louise: That was such an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing, Leo. Doing things when things are hard gives us a set of skills we can download once we do the hard things. It doesn’t always feel good or even comfortable, but growing is complicated. As you’re growing, it will feel uncomfortable at times. You know, as a kid, you're still learning about feelings and your brain is learning about what to do when you feel them. Your brain is trying to decide whether to face the hard thing or run away.
Nakita: I’m glad you brought that up, Dr. Lockhart. I struggled a lot with responsibilities when I was a kid. And sometimes it’s still difficult as a grownup. But when it gets hard to do something, I tell myself we can do hard things. Those words really help give me the courage to keep going. Speaking of words, what are other names used to describe the feeling of fear? It's a conference.
Ann-Louise: That's a great question, Nakita. Now there are definitely words we can use to describe the emotion of going from feeling fear to feeling confident. These are called synonyms. Words such as empowered, accomplished, proud, hopeful, inspired, enthusiastic, determined, resilient, grit, and optimistic. I have so many words for this one. This one inspires me...like a lot!
They mean different things, but they all describe different ways of feeling good about something you’ve done, especially when it started out being hard.
Nakita: Hmm. Now, why do you think it's important to feel uncomfortable until confidence hits?
Ann-Louise: Well, because life isn’t always easy. It can be really tough. Taking the easy path all the time doesn’t build strength or grit. Facing tough things actually develops perseverance. That means, you can learn to keep going even when everything around you tells you to give up or to quit. When you push through even when things are tough, you create a memory in your brain that future you can use when tough things pop up again.
Nakita: I'm so glad you brought that up. Dr. Lockhart, thank you for sharing that. It's okay to know that life can be hard, but we can always find tools to push through and help us come out better on the other side.
And feeling unsure sometimes is okay—-not giving up takes a lot of bravery.
I remember when I was at summer camp as a kid. I felt really scared because I was so far away from my mom for a whole month. I'd never gone [away] that long from her. It was hard to learn how to come out of my shell. But when I started saying yes to trying a lot of things I was afraid of, I grew so much as a person and I still use that memory to remember how to be confident in myself.
Ann-Louise: Yes! That sounds so familiar. I remember when I was a kid and I felt shy and different. Then, I became involved and took on leadership and acting roles in my church’s youth group. It shifted something within me. I felt more confident and different somehow. I did the hard thing and it changed me...for the better.
Nakita: I’m so glad that trying something hard worked out well, I’m sure it might have been scary but you came out the other side of things even better.
Dr. Lockhart, before we wrap up, are there any tools for fearful feelings and doing hard things that you think would help our listeners and even the grownups?
Ann-Louise: Absolutely, Nakita. I have one reminder and two really helpful tips.
Always remember your feelings are not your enemy, your feelings give you messages about other people and the world around you. So just embrace those feelings. Even the icky ones. I know it’s hard, but this is an important part of the process.
First, when you feel fear, think about your strengths and say it out loud. Tell yourself what you’re good at and what you can do. Like...say it out loud. Like a superhero with your hands on your waist. Superman pose! Say it loud: “I can do hard things!”
Second, write down your goals. What have you been avoiding that you can start doing to face your fears? Write down how you would like for it to end too? What will that look like? Who do you want to be there to support you? Write that down too.