Embracing Uncertainty -- Even in the Face of Doubt and Fear

Embracing Uncertainty -- Even in the Face of Doubt and Fear

Certainly, in our role as parents, teachers, or care-givers, we watch as our children are shaken up by the inescapable barrage of scary news involving death, bombs, enemies, and the like. They are frightened and confused as they ask questions such as: "Am I safe?" "Will the bombs come here?" "Why do people kill each other?" Even if we choose to keep our television sets turned off, a sense of fear and unrest seems to be hovering in the air. We live in a time of escalating insecurity. No doubt about it.

I wrote EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY to help people throughout the world calm their troubled minds and develop the trust that they can handle whatever life hands them. In my travels, I am frequently asked, "What do I tell my children when they express concerns about what is happening in the world?" A very good question.

So what do you tell the children to comfort them as they ask many of the same questions that you, at times, have asked yourself? Here are a few "embracing uncertainty" suggestions...

You can tell them:

"It's okay to be afraid. Everyone has times when they are afraid, even me. But our fears need not stop us from acting in ways that are powerful and loving. Our fears need not stop us from becoming the best we can be. Our fears need not stop us from reaching out and helping others. And as we act in ways that are powerful and loving, and as we try to become the best we can be, and as we reach out and help others, guess what happens... our fears get smaller and smaller and smaller. Let's work on this together."

All that is happening in the world offers you and your children a great opportunity to talk, learn, share, imagine, plan, and open up to each other. Use it all... the good and the bad ...to make the connection between you grow in a healthy and enduring way.

You can tell them...

"None of us knows what the future holds, but I do know that whatever happens, you will handle it. You may not know it yet, but you have a HUGE amount of strength within you that will allow you to handle anything that happens. So whenever your head is filled with bad thoughts about the future, just keep repeating over and over again...

No matter what happens, I can handle it!
No matter what happens, I can handle it!
No matter what happens, I can handle it!
No matter what happens, I can handle it!
No matter what happens, I can handle it!


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Let's practice this together."

It is clear to me that the frequent repetition of this wonderful affirmation can eventually quiet the "what if's" in your children's minds that make them feel insecure, frightened, and weak. Because I believe that this is such a valuable affirmation for children to learn, I created, with my friend Donna Gradstein, a book for young children entitled "I CAN HANDLE IT!". It contains many stories of children handling all sorts of things, each in their own way... and gaining a greater sense of confidence in the process.

So when your children express any fears about the future, just remind them to say over and over again, "Whatever happens, I'll handle it!" I suggest you say it right along with them. Young or old, knowing we can handle all that happens in our lives gives us a wonderful sense of comfort.

You can tell them...

Embracing Uncertainty"I know you are confused by people angrily arguing with each other about many things, including war. You are wondering who is right? And who is wrong? In this very complicated world, I don't believe anybody can know for sure. I believe that most people truly want the very same things... peace and love in this world. They just see different ways of finding peace and love. What we need to do is to stop arguing and start listening carefully to each other. Maybe we won't change our minds about what we believe, but with open ears and an open heart, we truly can learn a lot."

I see this as a wonderful opportunity to teach your children that we all need to open our hearts and minds to those who believe differently than we do. You need to explain that if we walked in someone else's shoes, perhaps we would see many things their way instead of our way.

In truth, we live in a "maybe" world. Maybe we're right; maybe we're wrong. Nobody knows the "Grand Design," the bigger picture that none of us can see. Given that, as we unblock our ears, we might learn a lot and develop a warmer feeling towards those who have a reason to think differently than we do. That's a very good reason for unblocking our ears!

You can tell them:

"I know the news is very scary. But there are also good things happening all around us. Let's create a list of all the good things that are happening and, every day, add to the list. I think that our list will get very...very...very long! In fact, let's see how long a list of good things we can make."

We live in a "bad news world", no doubt about it. We see and hear bad news everywhere we turn. But you can work with your children to create a "good news world". Certainly the above challenge of seeing how long a list of good things they can make is a great way to begin.

On this list could be all the good things they see people doing for others. Also on the list could be all the good things your children experience in their lives...food on the table, a wonderful hot bath, people who care about them, toys, friends, teachers, and on and on and on.

As you can see, this is a wonderful opportunity to create a joyful inner life of abundance for your children. It stands to reason that as children focus on the good, by definition, they will have much less time to focus on the bad, thereby seeing the world in a less frightening way.

You can tell them...

"We can all do our part in making this a more loving world. Why don't we each think of ten things we can do to spread our love around...and then let's do them...one at a time. I bet when we finish, we will want to think of ten more things we can do. It feels so good when we do our part in making this a more loving world."

Positive action is a great confidence builder and there are many ways that children can get involved in making this a more loving world. After the attack on the World Trade Center, I remember seeing children raising money for the needy with their lemonade stands, writing letters to children who had lost someone they loved, and so on.

There are also ways that children can be more loving in terms of their own behavior... thereby bringing more love into the family, their school, their community, and into the world. You can tell them what Stewart, one of the I CAN HANDLE IT! kids, has to say about it:

I don't understand why wars happen. I just don't understand it at all. But, I CAN HANDLE IT...

Maybe there isn't enough love in the world and that's why people fight with each other. Maybe I don't act loving some of the time. In fact, a lot of the time! When I am being mean to my sister, I am not being loving. When I am fighting with my brother, I am not being loving. When I want more Christmas presents than everyone else, I am not being loving. When I say, "I hate you" to someone, I am not being loving.

Maybe I have to start being more loving. If EVERYONE acted more loving, maybe there wouldn't be any more wars. You know what? I think everyone's love counts. Even mine...and yours! See...WE CAN HANDLE IT! NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, WE CAN HANDLE IT!

Oh, if all our children learned the lesson that Stewart teaches, we would have a lot more happy children...and parents!

All of the above are just suggestions as to what you can begin to tell your children. Of course, you will want to adapt these ideas to your own situation, your own beliefs, and your own children.

None of us wants a world filled with conflict. But, that is what the world is handing us right now. And we would be wise to find ways of creating something positive and enriching out of it all. Certainly one way of doing this is to show your children...how they can lessen their fears...how they can be more loving...and how they can truly make a difference in this world.

The good news is that as we teach our children these valuable lessons, we teach ourselves as well.

Copyright 2003, Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.
Reprinted with permission.
Published by St. Martin's Press.

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Embracing Uncertainty: Breakthrough Methods for Achieving Peace of Mind When Facing the Unknown
by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. From the multimillion bestselling author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway comes a powerful and healing book designed to offer a safety net in a world of never-ending change. It may be one of the most comforting and life-affirming books you will ever read. With her invaluable insights and exercises, Susan Jeffers gives you the tools you need to deal with all the uncertainty in your life with a sense of peace and possibility.

Info/Order this book (paperback)  or order the Kindle version

 About the Author

Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. (1938-2012) was the author of many books including the international best-seller Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and the award-winning Embracing Uncertainty. Her book, I Can Handle It! (co-authored with Donna Gradstein) was written to build confidence in young children. Visit her website at www.susanjeffers.com

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