Zip Lining through Fear

Does your child seek out adventure or shy away from it?

My oldest loves thrill rides, and is more often than not, open to trying something new. Even if it might be a little bit scary. My youngest is opposed to thrill rides, and generally opposed to trying anything that involves taking a visible risk. I understand. I was scared of the same things when I was young, but through the encouragement of my parents (largely my father who reminded me, time and again, that I could do this, and that everything would be okay) I learned to not only overcome my fears but be willing to take risks.

We decided to go to a zip line operator to do something fun as a family over the holiday weekend. We knew going in we’d all be a little nervous once we got to the top of the zip line, but thought the fun of doing it together was worth it.

I went first, my youngest son after me followed by my husband and his older brother. When my youngest got to the first platform he was scared. I thought well goodness we’re not even half way up. He looked at me and said, “A bee is stinging me.” The platform wound around the tree making it awkward for me to get to him quickly to try to help. I managed to get to him, saw there was a bee on his shirt and tried to shake it off. I thought I had when my son cried, “Mom, it’s stinging me. Make it stop.” I thought the bee was gone, but when I pulled my son’s shirt away from him the bee flew out. I thought oh no, do we go on? Do we stop? We were only on the first platform. After everyone had calmed down I looked at my son. “The bee is gone now. Are you okay? Are you ready to move on?” I don’t know what possessed me to say that, maybe it was the fact that my son is getting older and things like this can happen. I didn’t want the bee to be the end of our experience. He nodded and we kept moving forward. We got to the next platform and while crossing on the bridge (which honestly was pretty scary as there were big openings where you could see the ground directly below your feet) his harness came down around his legs. This can’t be happening I thought. Maybe someone was trying to tell us not to zip line? Thankfully a staff member saw what happened and quickly got to him and got his harness back on and tightened properly. We finally reached the zip line. He was behind me as I got ready to go. “I’m scared,” he said. “I am too,” I said, “I can only get through my fear if I go.” I stepped off the platform and off I went. Almost instantly my fear was gone and I was enjoying zipping down the line. “It’s great!” I told my son as I was soaring through the air, “You’re going to love it.” It took him a while to get his courage up to go after me. My husband was on one end encouraging him and I was on the other. After a few minutes, he stepped off the platform and came hurdling towards me. I could see that he too had moved from fear to that’s what I was so worried about?

When he was off the zip line he was so proud of himself, and so was I. He had many opportunities to turn back, say “I’m done”, but he didn’t. He showed himself he’s tougher and more capable than even he could have believed.

How does your child work through fear? How do help show them what they are capable of?

I’m Scared

As a kid, what were you afraid of?

Our neighbor is really into Halloween. Each year, their front yard becomes a mini haunted house. I have to admit I was a little concerned how my children would react to the realistic skeletons, blood fountain (yes) and fake guillotine when they were younger, but up until this year they seemed more curious than frightened by them. My oldest son said, “Mom, I know this hasn’t bothered me in the past, and this isn’t real, but it kinda scares me.” I knew what he meant. There seems to be a shift at some age where things that you didn’t really notice or comprehend become scary.

My earliest memory of being scared was of shadows cast in my bedroom as a child from the door not being closed all the way and light coming in from the hallway. I’m sure I’d read or heard stories of monsters living under children’s beds, and while I logically knew the possibility was very small, the slightest possibility unnerved me. When I voiced my fear to my parents, I was often consoled and told, “It’s not real, don’t worry about it.” Easier said than done, right? The mind has the capacity for great imagination.

As a parent, my kids are now experiencing fear in their own way. Whether it’s the neighbors Halloween decorations or the unexplained noise (our house is old, and known to creak), or being afraid of the dark, it’s all very real to them. I sat my kids down after one of the boys asked if vampires were real. “Do you think people would be walking around outside ever if vampires were real?” I saw that I got their attention so I continued. “Doo-dee-doo, look at me, I’m just strolling along, hoping no vampire is going to come and get me.” With that, my boys started to smile. Realizing what I was saying was true seemed to comfort them. I added, “Same for werewolves, mummies, and zombies. We wouldn’t have a lock on our door, we’d live in a metal vault that would require a million different codes to get in. We’d never see our neighbors cause they’d have the same thing. Man, how’d we get groceries (and who’d work at the grocery store all open and exposed for some vampire to walk on in), or get to work or school, or go out and do anything fun if all these things that were trying to kill or eat us were all around?” Now my boys were laughing. They got it…vampires, werewolves, mummies and zombies aren’t real.

But it was a good reminder. Fear is real, and needed for survival. It gets complicated when we talk about things worth really fearing in our world. But that’s a talk for another day. In the meantime, I’ll continue to look for ways to help my children understand those things they need not fear at all.

How do you help your child work through fear they are experiencing? How do you explain all the ‘scary stuff’ that comes out at Halloween?

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep following Halloween. I’ll be back in early November.

Bad Dreams

My oldest is nine. He is starting to want to branch out and watch TV programs on channels other than Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. He understand that the ratings on a TV show are a good guide to help him understand if my husband and I will be okay with him watching it’s content. He asked me to sit with him while he watched a show about the history or legends of strange places. I wasn’t keen on him watching the show, as I felt it could be confusing and potentially give him nightmares, but knew that I couldn’t shield him from such show forever. I sat down with him and proceeded to watch the show.

Part of the episode included a gangster getting killed by other gangsters who were trying to free him. The show did a good job of showing minimal carnage, but you got the idea of what happened: there were Tommy guns, and spatters of blood with people lying on the ground. I told my son we needed to find something else to watch. Later that night after my son had gone to bed, he got up and told me he couldn’t sleep. I knew this would happen, I thought, ugh! I told him to sit down and talk to me about what was keeping him awake. “I can’t get the image out of my head. I keep thinking someone is going to come out of nowhere and shoot me,” he shared. My first attempt to make him feel better was based on facts: gangsters are something we mainly see on TV, not in real life. I proceeded to detail when gangsters were at their height and why gangsters were dangerous. He thought about this for a minute and said, “Thanks, but that doesn’t really help.” Okay, what else can I try? I thought about the technique I use when I get scary images in my head, I try to turn them into something less threatening or scary. I try to turn them into something silly or ridiculous. It’s hard to be afraid when the image makes you smile or laugh. I shared my idea with my son, “what if we could make what’s scary you into something funny?” He smiled at the thought. I said, “What if instead of bullets coming out of the gun, tickets, like you win at the Family Fun Center, came out of the gun; and it made a ding-ding-ding sound instead of a bang-bang-bang sound?” I had him now, he was grinning from ear to ear. “Or what if, instead of pulling a gun out of his coat, he pulled out a butterfly?” my son added with a laugh. “I love it! That’s really good,” I said. I could tell my son was feeling better and had a strategy that was helping him.

It turned out the TV show provided an opportunity to connect with my son and allowed me to give him a tool he could use; it felt good.

How have you helped your child work through a nightmare? What unexpected places provided an opportunity for you to teach, or connect with, your child?