Courage Is a Choice
As an educator for a hands-on science company, I explore a wide variety of topics with students every day. Some inspire smiles, like making playdough or slime, while others can trigger fears, like encountering live worms or spiders.
In those classes, reactions run the gamut from children self-consciously giggling to those who can barely remain seated, wanting to run away from what frightens them. I have even heard some children repeating, “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared,” like some sort of mantra.
These moments provide a wonderful opportunity to show children how brave they can be when they get in touch with their inner resources. I would like to share how I handle it, hoping it might be a tool you can use to help empower children (of all ages) when fear is near.
Time for a Power Pause!
When students are afraid, I set a small experiment in motion. I ask everyone to stop right where they are and, without saying anything out loud, check in with their bodies to discover how they are feeling in the moment. Then I ask them to identify where they are feeling what they feel. Tight shoulder muscles? Heart beating really fast? Teeth clenched? Stomach yucky? Palms sweaty? We all just notice and observe.
Next, everyone takes a deep breath and exhales with vigor. Then we shake it out, wiggling fingers or shoulders, wherever we feel tension gathered within.
I explain that the things we say to ourselves are incredibly important to the way we feel. I hope to illustrate how our thoughts and words have great power to create different experiences.
Regardless of how frightened we might be, we can consciously choose how we respond to our fear, and that choice makes all the difference.
In this phase of the experiment, I ask them to think about what frightens them most about the scary critter I have shown them and to repeat out loud a few times that they’re scared. Checking in with how they feel, most realize they are making themselves even more afraid by dwelling on their fears.
We then discuss how unlikely it would be that their teacher would allow me to come into the classroom with something that would hurt them. I remind them my goal is to explore things in a fun and safe way. I also remind them they always have the power to pause and observe their situation before they respond, every time.
Then we take a deep breath, allowing a quick reset, and try a new phrase: “I am strong, and I am brave.” We repeat that a few times and again share how we are feeling. Maybe we even stand up, striking a Superman pose while we affirm our courage and strength.
I am strong, and I am brave.
No one is any less scared of the creature I am walking around with, but now everyone has realized they have the power to decide how much to let anxiety control what they do in response.
There will always be something to fear, and believe it or not, that’s a good thing! Fear is an important survival tool. It tells us to run when we should, and at other times it gives us a fantastic opportunity to be courageous. The more familiar we are with our inner landscape, the easier it will be for us to decide which is which.
A Prayer for Children’s Courage
Finding a quiet place to settle, I center in my heart with a deep breath. Knowing I am within God, I relax my body. I breathe deeply, spending a moment in gratitude for how my faith gives me the strength and courage I need to face my fears or overcome any obstacle. Bringing to my heart all the children of the world, I feel my connection with them. Sending waves of strength, courage, and an abiding faith from my heart to theirs, I envision an ever-expanding web of divine determination connecting and strengthening us all. Feeling it to be so, I am grateful.
A Shared Family Prayer for Courage
As we open to this time of sacred prayer, we breathe together, aware that we are breathing the breath of God. We remember that we share every breath with every living thing on earth. We visualize our connection as a wave of energy and support that encircles the globe. With every inhalation, we feel love, power, and strength filling our body until it overflows with all we could ever need. Each time we exhale, that same powerful, loving energy flows outward to every living thing. In sharing, we are strengthened and empowered. Grateful beyond measure, we know it is so.