Posts tagged ‘fear’

December 18, 2012

Cries of the Children

Contributed by Alicia La Hoz, PsyD

candleAt a time where many anticipate the joy and good will ushered by the Christmas season, our cheer is detained.  The peace and hope we wish to all through our sharing of Christmas cards, goodies and gifts feels helplessly out of place when what we otherwise feel is sorrow, fear, disillusionment and grief.  The traumatic event at the Connecticut Elementary School goes far and beyond any parent’s worst fear. Evil plagued the safest of communities, the safest of settings and shattered what we most trust. While most of us were spared the grief with our own children, and while we can never truly understand the depth of pain that the parents who lost a child at Sandy Hook Elementary feel, our hearts pang for the loss. We love, we hurt and we try so hard to protect the lives that have been cherished under our care. Lurking in the shadows of the media frenzy covering the trauma, is the voice that quietly says, “this could have been my child”.  Fear drives us to want to control our environment, to do what is necessary to prevent all the violence. So as we try to make sense of the tragedy, we seek answers. We turn to policy and government hoping for tighter gun restrictions and we turn to mental health hoping to find an answer. Since we desperately want answers and we dig for them with utter despair, many have used this platform to spur tighter gun regulations or to stigmatize young adults diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorders such as Asperger’s and Autism.  We want to put our fears to rest, and want answers so that we can go on and move about the business of our lives. The reality is that the problem is a complex one requiring comprehensive solutions. Luckily, most of us are very resilient. In light of such trauma, most of us will be amazingly strong. And thus we will:

  • Reach out to each other – talk about what happened and process it in our on way.
  • Recall that we have overcome other traumatic events such as 9/11.
  • Try to help and get involved in some way – donate, pray, write.
  • Try to make meaning and put things in perspective.
  • Keep a positive and hopeful outlook embellishing random acts of kindness
  • Take care of each others’ family and do what we can to keep the routine going.

As we do all of this, life regains its sense of equilibrium and we will go about our days and lives. As we do this, we will get busy and we will forget to see the lonely parent struggling with a difficult child whom she fears. We will become critical of the parent who doesn’t seem to rein her child at the grocery store. We will be too busy to offer a helping hand to a parent who is going solo and feeling burned out as they cope with a difficult child – maybe one suffering through mental health.  We will keep our children away from other children that are reserved and appear withdrawn fearing that their somberness may be contagious or serve as bad influence. We may forget to engage in conversations with policy makers about how to address violence and to invest in programs that help prevent family fragmentation.

But we don’t have to forget.  Maybe the lives of these children can truly be honored and remembered each time you sit with a parent who is struggling with a difficult child; by purposefully providing social opportunities with the disenfranchised youth and children in your neighborhood; by volunteering and advocating for families in partnership with your local social service agency; by working to help families struggling through adversities; by proactively seeking to address policy that can help put more preventative measures in place to address violence in our communities. Maybe the cries of the children will be a sharp motivating force to work together to strengthen our families and our communities as we face the evil that darkly wants to permeate our Christmas this season.

May 16, 2011

Raising Confident Children

Contributed by Brittany Mershon, MA

One of the questions I am frequently asked as a therapist is, “How can I help my child to be more confident?”  Confidence is a multifaceted concept to address. First, confidence is not a feeling, it’s a commitment. Confidence is not the absence of fear, but rather a commitment to seeing a decision through in spite of fear. Raising confident children can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Here is a list of tips to help you through the process:

  1. Model Confidence. Children mimic behavior they observe from those around them, especially their parents. Parents who show confidence, even in the face of fear, will help their children learn to do the same.
  2. Embrace Failures. It sounds counter-intuitive, but children who fear failure are more likely to fail. Children and adults alike who are successful learn to overcome failure early in life. They learn that fearing failure causes one to act more cautiously and fear taking risks that might cause unsuccessful results. Celebrating their best effort and modeling mistakes can be learning experiences that will help confidence to grow.
  3. Embrace Success. Fear of success is a common fear that can cause children to focus on the negative aspects of doing well. Success could mean more responsibility or increased expectations. It is important to share with children the benefits of success.
  4. Embrace Change. Many children are creatures of habit. Much like many adults, the threat of change can be intimidating. Even if the ‘change’ is positive, children often fear the unknown. Seek to understand what it is that is ultimately holding your child back from embracing change, and then work to help them overcome or work around it.

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