The Things Teens Fear Most
In the depths of one's mind darkness wraps itself around a daunting thought concealing all reason within gray shadow. As time creeps forward the shadow crafts images so vivid a person betrays reality for fantasy, a possibility of existence. Fear is now a presence and exists to reign over rational thought.
As such, teens today are paralyzed by new fears and horrors previously unknown to most parents. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), our youth live within the shadow of threat. The possibility of terrorism exists. Not only is terrorism cause for anxiety for youth, other frightening notions such as abduction, death, and disease are prevalent enough to paralyze children with fear.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.— Franklin D. Roosevelt
Which of the following fears, if any, do you think about MOST on occasion?
Franklin D. Roosevelt's quote was directed towards Americans who feared the collapse of the banking system. As people made a run on banks, he pointed out how their "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes . . . " was causing havoc to rule among the masses. Unbridled, fear will infiltrate the psyche choking rational thinking and logic into oblivion. Steps must be taken to halt the progression of fear in order to help one stabilize reality in mind and action.
The horror reported on the news is frightening, let alone the perception one imagines from hearing it repeated to them. Children often perceive information differently than intended due to the inability to process facts using mature reason. Their brains are still developing which is a factor affecting reality and imagination of thought.
Parents must take the time to listen to their adolescent when they share their concerns. Taking time to discuss the issues surrounding the fear may clear up any misleading information and perceptions.
Listed below are fears teens faced almost a decade ago. They are pretty much the same today except for some added definition to the fears of terrorism and new anxiety centering on abduction and disease.
Parental Advice On How To Talk About Fears
The Shadow Has A Name
Movies are known for exploiting popular topics, such as abduction, to bring in the big bucks. Visually, teens are attracted to the graphic scenes portraying kidnappings due to the emotional display of fear. These rousing scenes affect their sense of security, even though they are electrified by the thrill of events.
I recently overheard a group of teen girls discussing kidnapping during a morning class break. Some shared their fear of being taken, almost to the point of defining it as a panic disorder. One young lady stated she knew how to take care of herself if she were ever in this situation. She had been studying a movie and thought she knew exactly how to get out of such a predicament. Parents, children are afraid of the shadow hovering over them. This shadow has a name: abduction.
A recent government report stated a child is taken every 40 seconds in the United States, 50% of them are sexually assaulted by their abductor. These statistics are alarming and should concern every parent in America. But, should we allow this truth to paralyze our children from living a full life in society? Discussing the fear with your teen is important, but even more important is establishing rules (such as check-in calls and pick up at school and homes of friends) and helping your child understand the boundaries to prevent such a horrible act.
The Threat Of A Shadow
Everyone is talking about the current threat of Ebola. A discussion of it during class one afternoon resulted in one young man asking his classmates to avoid classes if they were sick. "Please, please, stay home if you have a fever and are coughing all over the place!" was his plea. Others expressed concern over being in stores, restaurants, and on airplanes with people who may have been exposed to this deadly disease. They asked me if wearing a mask was advisable at this point.
Early this fall I suffered flu-like symptoms including sore throat, aching joints, and fever. I thought about the possibility of having Ebola. Fortunately, it was only the flu and passed within a few days. The CDC states that in the United States, each year on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Influenza can be deadly, yet most of us do little to protect ourselves each year from this virus. What am I saying? Simply this, Ebola is not as great a threat to the US as the flu.
If your teen is concerned about getting this virus, you should discuss the facts about what it is, how it is spread, and methods of keeping healthy and safe from direct contact. If you tell your child "don't worry", they will worry. Making sure your child is informed with the truth will prevent a full-blown hysteria!
The Shadow Of Death
After taking a poll of over 75 secondary students on current teen fears, death stood out among the top five. I asked them what it was that frightened them most about it? It was not so much death itself they feared, it was the thought of how they would die, having an early death, or someone close to them dying.
Many adolescents have experienced death at an early age. The loss of a parent or sibling can cause emotional trauma throughout their teen years and beyond. They may have thoughts of losing other people in their life such as a close family member, friend, or even a pet.
Hearing or seeing tragedy, such as in movies or on TV, can develop a deep fear of death. They may worry about dying or worry that their mom or dad may die based upon the what they saw in the film. Extreme comments made by a few students centered around types of death they feared; for example, drowning, buried alive, torture, and a car accident. Fear can continue to feed upon itself and cause deep depression and anxiety.
Again, knowing how to talk to your teen in these types of situations will help them break free from this shadow. Often, sharing fears you had at this age will help them emotionally work through a particular fear to develop courage.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil . . .
Light Expels The Shadows
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
There are many other fears teens hold onto from time to time. The fear of being alone, fear of failure, and fear of being bullied are examples of common adolescent worries. If a youth has numerous fears, a parent must delve into what may be happening in his life to cause such anxiety.
How can you help your child face her fears? Remember, fear is a normal reaction to danger, even if it is a perception. As a parent, you can help your teen face these fears and develop confidence to face difficult situations that may happen.
- Be available to listen carefully to your teen's fear. Respect them and do not minimize the anxiety.
- Help her trace the root of the anxiety. Their concerns are real, be kind and serious in suggesting how to handle them. Remind her that she will learn techniques on how to handle these fears as she takes steps to deal with each episode.
- Remind your teen about other times in his life when he was afraid. Discuss how he overcame it with success. Share how you may have experienced similar fears and learned how to work through the stress and anxiety.
- Seek professional councel If your adolescent demonstrates extreme fear, or develops physical symptoms such as headaches or fatigue from the fear. Ask your family doctor or school counselor for a referral. Seek the counsel and support of your pastor who may be able to help your teen gain courage and hope to face his fears through faith.
© 2014 Dianna Mendez