Most likely you’ve seen Kerwin Rae’s video clip on borrowing fears on social media. (In the change you haven’t, it’s below.) Mr. Rae talks in his very snazzy accent about how his son was afraid of ghosts. The fear was borrowed from an episode of parents favorite show, Paw Patrol. The characters were afraid of a ghost who turned out to be Marshall. I’m sure you’ve seen that episode at least three times.
The idea of passing fears along to our kids sounds legitimate to me. While I don’t know the exact science behind it, we as parents can’t help but model some of our fears to our children because they see us react to them. They can’t help but see us in the raw moments of fear. Diana Stone wrote about passing her fear of pool drains on to her daughter. She felt guilty about her irrational fear spreading to her child. Recently, I’ve tried not to do the same thing.
This summer, my son has taken swimming lessons. I’ve been very proud of his efforts to learn a new skill. When I was his age I had a phobia of deep water. The thought of being in the deep end of a pool set off a deep seated fear and panic. Because of this fear, taking swimming lessons was hard for me.
I remember being anxious the night before a lesson and begging my parents not to take me. My parents didn’t give in. They took me to the lessons and I learned to swim. I’m a decent swimmer today because of what I learned overcoming my fear. But I still didn’t want to pass this fear onto my son. Why should my fear scare him
I was concerned I might transfer this fear of deep water by way of encouragement. I was so proud of my son’s bravery to learn to swim that I wanted to praise him for being braver than I was. I wanted him to know that I was so glad he was doing a better job that I did that I might inadvertently pass my former fear on to him. I won’t talk about my old fear because I don’t want my son to have a new one.
I have informed my son about the dangers of deep water. But I’ve done it in a very controlled, instructional way. To this point my wife and I are always within arm's reach of him in the pool. We’ll start to make that distance greater as he improves as a swimmer.
Sometimes fear is a good thing, it can teach kids to be safe. But as parents we don’t need to pass on our irrational fears to our kids, we don’t even need to hold on to them ourselves. So for now, encourage your kids and let them know how proud you are of them for living their own lives.
For ways to keep your kids safe in the pool this summer, check out my article "5 Ways to Stay Safe in the Pool."