Fear – it can be a gripping and crippling emotion that controls us. It can stop us from from moving forward, send us sprinting in the wrong direction, or bring to our lives a totally irrational view of the past, present, and future. For teens, fear can be especially poignant, since their brain development is incomplete. They have more difficulty seeing into the future and predicting consequences for their actions.
Of course there are good and bad things that come from teen fear. One negative consequence of teen fear is irrationality. Teens are unable to rationally determinate likelihood of the events which scare them. They may find themselves convinced that they will never have friends, never find love, or that they’ll fail at life in general. They may develop a cynical or dangerous view of the world around them, unable to see the world with perspective. Teen boys may feel pressured to hide all emotion, and teen girls are constantly comparing themselves to edited magazine images.
Your teen is not only struggling to see a big picture, simply due to biological development, but they are also facing a world of largely unrealistic expectations. Helping your teen navigate through the troubled waters of adolescence means adjusting your parenting to provide consistency. Fortunately one way to do this is to use healthy fear to your advantage.
Fear – How it Helps
Fear is a biological response designed for self-preservation. Expecting your teen to feel no fear is also irrational. Instead, as a parent you should focus on helping your teen identify, feel, and react to appropriate fear. They should feel neither invincible nor disposable. They should have reasonable fear that will protect their health and future.
Examples of Reasonable Fear
Fear of Death & Addiction – to avoid drugs & alcohol
Fear of Auto Accident – to wear seatbelts, drive slowly, obey traffic laws, and encourage their friends to do the same
Fear of Obesity & Heart Disease – to encourage exercise and healthy eating
Fear of Jail & Legal Consequences – to obey laws
Fear of STDs, Unplanned Pregnancy, and Sexual Violence – to develop healthy romantic and sexual relationships
There are so many types of healthy fear which can propel your teens in the right direction, avoiding natural consequences of poor decisions. It may seem rude or morbid to discuss fear of death or obesity or addiction with your teen, but developing reasonable fear can help them approach the world with a more rational adjustment and leave them safer and happier. Teens without a reasonable sense of fear may find themselves facing these consequences and in need of more intense help from professionals or a therapeutic boarding school. That reasonable fear can be learned, and the sooner they learn it the better.