How to Deal with Kids and Fear

Jordana Green faces her fears and helps her kids do the same.

I am consistently amazed by how often I quote Disney movies. (I can see you moms nodding.) This weekend, I pulled out an old line my kids had forgotten. I said it as we were driving to our snowboarding lesson and I was getting quite a bit of resistance from the back of the minivan.

Mom: “What does it mean to be brave?”
Kids: (insert eye rolling here).
Mom: “Bravery is to feel scared and do the thing you’re afraid of anyway.”

OK, so the quote wasn’t exactly the way Princess Merida’s dad, King Fergus said it in the movie Brave, but you get the idea.

Last week, my oldest took a bad fall off the chairlift—her instructor fell on top of her and his board crashed onto her. She was banged up. I felt bad. But what is my responsibility as a mom? Do I let her skip the lesson, rationalizing that she was still hurt? I thought about it. Her ankle was still black and blue, but it was her fear that was more swollen.

Honestly, out of all four of us, I am the most afraid of these lessons. Snowboarding scares the crap out me! My athletic ability retired with my cheerleading skirt, and the most adventurous I get with exercise is a headstand in yoga. But on the mountain, I say a little prayer every time I get on and off the lift; I practice deep breathing every time I face my board down hill; I become The Little Engine That Could before every turn I make, repeating “I think I can, I think I can.” (Not a Disney quote, but still a classic.) So I understand fear.

Back to the question, do I let her skip the lesson? Hell, no. The decision was no longer about snowboarding; this was a teachable moment I was not letting escape.

We strapped in and didn’t even start on the bunny hill. In between our instructor and me, she rode the lift and boarded off beautifully. By the end of the lesson, she was doing it on her own and was possibly the most proud of herself I’ve ever seen her. It was our most successful lesson yet in many ways.

Over bagels and hot chocolate afterwards, I confessed my fears about snowboarding to the kids. It opened up a discussion about what else we were afraid of, and the times we were brave. (See definition above.) This, I realized, is a bonus of learning to snowboard. Learning how to overcome fear is a life skill. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised to function well and be strong when you need to use it. Building that muscle on the mountain is the perfect metaphor for overcoming fear, because after you fall, or even crash, there’s always another chair to lift you to your next run at success.

This week I wish you enough bravery muscles to not only overcome your fear, but to beat the crap out of it!