How to help your kids have a go at things that frighten you

Here are some tactics to help you let your child have a go at life. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see or

On top, behind and going over a waterfall. Parents either look away or check it's safe before they jump.

On top, behind and going over a waterfall. Parents either look away or check it’s safe before they jump.

On a bridge I sometimes cross with my dog or child (or both) there’s some new graffiti. It says: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

I don’t feel very nervy about life, but I reckon a fearless me would:

Climb up the Shard! Go wild swimming! Remonstrate with anyone who won’t clear up their dog poo! Take walks between midnight and dawn! Walk the beam at my aunt’s house that’s at ceiling height over a stone floor…

It’s a daft list – because anyone could live without needing to do any of these things.  However if I was living in Brazil or Turkey now (despite the right political instincts) I do wonder if I’d be brave enough to be out on the street protesting?  Worse I reckon I’d use my kids as an excuse, like this, “I can’t campaign for civil liberties… because I need to look after my family,” knowing it was a transparent lie.

Parents are often frightened for their children – fortunately in the UK this is often for no good reason. But those parental fears mean that modern kids have a very short leash in case they are run over, abducted or mix with the wrong people.

In a bid to try and get over all those grown up fears  it’s worth setting your kids challenges that help them develop the instincts, skills and resilience to deal with your fears.  It’s very popular these days to write a bucket list (eg, the 10 things you want to do before you die say, or perhaps more usefully the 10 things you want to to do before the end of the summer…). With the school holidays fast approaching consider writing a list of things to do that help tackle the real, and the unfounded, fears. I think mine might be something like this…

For toddlers

  • Dealing with choking or other accidents
    Teach the difference between no (it’s annoying but not life threatening if you don’t stop what you are doing) and STOP (must be obeyed – eg, by a road, if about to hit another child with a heavy object..) And an idea for mums and dads – get your mates together and do a First Aid course with a focus on babies. That way if your child chokes on a carrot you can sort it out.

For primary school

  • Dealing with fears about drowning on a school trip/family holiday/friend’s party
    Challenge: Teach your child to swim – this may mean taking swimming lessons. At the very least teach water safety so they know not to run by pools & know that if they did fall in they should grab an object to help them float. They also need to know about staying away from ice.
  • Dealing with bigger kids (possibly bullying your tot)
    Challenge: Act out what might happen at home and then talk through solutions. Primary schools ought to have a be friendly (anti bullying policy) so ask the school office what they teach the children – you can then follow a similar approach.

For the Year 5-8 (age 10-13)

  • Dealing with fears of traffic
    Challenge: Go on a bike ride (teach some cycle safety & check she knows how to pump up tyres/mend punctures etc)
  • Dealing with fears about food/healthy eating/nutrition
    Challenge: Make cooking inspiring (get a friend/s to come round and see if they can create a whole show-off meal from scratch including the shopping, cooking and eating)

For the Year 9-11 (age 13-16)

  • Dealing with stranger danger/personal safety/sexual attack
    Challenge: See if your child can travel longer distances on their own (keep checking she knows about the A-Z, maps, GPS, timetables, safety when travelling)
  • Dealing with fears about spoilt child syndrome
    Challenge: Work out how self-sufficient she is (eg, with homey tasks – like dealing with laundry; locking up; making picnic lunch, flask of tea). This would be a lot more fun if I could just give her an animal to take 100 per cent care of for a while (go see War Horse the musical to see what I mean).
  • Dealing with worries about drugs and drink (and sex)
    Challenge: Let her do roughly what she wants to do but aim to answer questions, avoid making any conversation taboo, discuss news horror stories – people’s state of mind, how to avoid the situation, what would you do in that situation etc. Maybe offer books, share information etc. A really good website about drugs can be found at Frank.

Over to you
Do let me know what freaks you out about your children growing up and how you’ve tried assuaging those fears. Thanks. Nicola

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3 Comments on “How to help your kids have a go at things that frighten you”

  1. I think every parent struggles with this one! Love your age appropriate ideas!

  2. nicola baird Says:

    Sarah Kay is an incredible poet who at the start of this TED talk performs a 3 min poem “To her unborn daughter” all about dealing with parental worries… see

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