I watch my three daughters do new things every day. Walk into a new classroom, talk to a new kid at the park, begin a new sport or activity, ride a bigger bike.
Most of us have done these things, but I don’t know if we recognized our bravery.
I wonder if we recognize our children’s bravery.
Unfortunately our understanding of bravery has gotten lost. Most believe that bravery means not feeling fear, but bravery can’t exist without feeling fear or risk. We can’t be brave if we don’t realize there is something to lose.
Every day children put themselves out there, try new things, walk through new doors. We expect them to do these things, and we often chastise them if they don’t. When a child cries or admits discomfort, we often use guilt or shame to quiet them rather than acknowledge their feelings.
Admitting fear or expressing concern is brave in itself. Asking someone to support you or sharing your deepest thoughts takes a great deal of courage. So instead of believing that our children shouldn’t feel afraid, we need to remember that fear is what inspires bravery.
As adults, we often get into our routines and our groups and we make a decision to stop trying new things or stop putting ourselves out there. We find a no-risk zone so we don’t have to deal with failure or being criticized.
But when our kids step into a new experience, we find ourselves annoyed or confused by their tears and worries. We find ourselves telling them how to feel or why they are wrong rather than listening to their honest and heartfelt concerns.
When children say they are scared, they are looking for validation and normalizing. They are asking for help, hoping the ones they love most will understand and guide them through it.
The goal is not to talk them out of their fear, but to acknowledge and allow for it. Then you can support them as they navigate their new experience.
And maybe we can share that sometimes we feel afraid, that when we try new things, it’s not easy for us either. Real life involves risk; it involves a willingness to be vulnerable.
Children are expected to take risks all the time. See their experiences through their eyes.
Your ability to acknowledge and listen offers them a sense of normalcy and a determination to keep going. It provides the foundation they need to practice bravery.