Fear of Failure

The fear of failure can be debilitating, especially to kids with perfectionist tendencies. Oftentimes, kids who are afraid to fail believe failure marks them as incapable. They can’t imagine life continuing in the aftermath of defeat and they avoid risk to avoid failure. They attempt only that at which they expect they can succeed, which prevents them from growing.

How a bucket list helps: It gives them audacious goals to go after, goals frequently difficult to reach. That may mean a few missed tries before your child succeeds. The more times you allow your child to fail by encouraging them to go after big goals, the more resilient they’ll become and the less fearful they’ll be of failure.

The bucket list approach: Work with your child to pinpoint a meaningful achievement in a subject or activity he loves. It could be making the honors orchestra, pitching a perfect game, or winning a gold medal in Science Olympiad. Talk about it as a bucket list goal – something they hope to achieve once (to start). Emphasize it may take a few tries and failing is part of the process. Then help them take action on their goal. If they fail, offer support. Assist them in figuring out how to adjust their approach to succeed in the future.

Fear of the Unknown

So much is new for kids that if we let them succumb to their fears of the unknown, they may never leave our home. They would never start preschool. They wouldn’t try a new sport or make new friends.

How a bucket list helps: An eagerness to reach the goal often crowds out fear of the unknown. Curiosity and enthusiasm propel kids to seek out more details and information. Their imaginations fill in the rest of the unknowns with positive expectations. When two of my daughters signed up for their bucket list goal of learning how to fence, they didn’t worry about their lack of prior experience with the sport. Their excitement prompted them to read information on what to wear, what equipment is used and what would be provided, and how long the sessions would last, which was enough to give them courage for the first day of class.

The bucket list approach: Help your child choose a new experience from their bucket list. Encourage them to focus on what makes the goal exciting. Provide them opportunities to learn more information to fill in as many unknowns as possible. This could involve reading handouts, visiting a venue, making a schedule or timing how long it takes to complete. Narrowing the amount of unknowns and framing the experience as exciting limits the fear and equips kids with skills for handling future unknowns.

Fear of Missing Out

FOMO (fear of missing out) isn’t merely an adult phenomenon created by Facebook posts. Kids can face that fear, too, especially in the tween and teen years. They lament about what “everyone else” is doing. They compare their life to others and worry good things are happening without them.

How a bucket list helps: The child who has opportunities to chalk up bucket-list experiences doesn’t have time to mull over what others are doing. Their own life becomes interesting enough to make the rest not matter. They also learn the value of delayed gratification when they sacrifice in the short-term for the sake of a bigger goal.

The bucket list approach: Encourage your child to choose a big bucket list goal they can break into steps. These steps could be saving money, researching options and information, or practicing a skill. Prompt your child to do what he can to make regular progress toward the goal. When children see themselves make strides toward meeting a large goal, they overcome the sense that nothing interesting happens for them, because they have something to look forward to. Skipping an outing to the movies with friends to save money for a once-in-a-lifetime concert makes missing out a non-starter.

– Lara Krupicka

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