Fear and Anxiety – An Age by Age Guide to Common Fears, The Reasons for Each and How to Manage Them, by Karen Young


It is very normal for all children to have specific fears at some point in their childhood. Even the bravest of hearts beat right up against their edges sometimes. As your child learns more about the world, some things will become more confusing and frightening. This is nothing at all to worry about and these fears will usually disappear on their own as your child grows and expands his or her experience.

In the meantime, as the parent who is often called on to ease the worried mind of your small person, it can be helpful to know that most children at certain ages will become scared of particular things.

When is fear or anxiety a problem?

Fear is a very normal part of growing up. It is a sign that your child is starting to understand the world and the way it works, and that they are trying to make sense of what it means for them. With time and experience, they will come to figure out for themselves that the things that seem scary aren’t so scary after all. Over time, they will also realise that they have an incredible capacity to cope.

Fears can certainly cause a lot of cause distress, not only for the kids and teens who have the fears, but also for the people who care about them. It’s important to remember that fears at certain ages are completely appropriate and in no way are a sign of abnormality.

The truth is, there really is no such thing as an abnormal fear, but some kids and teens will have fears that are more intense and intrusive. Even fears that seem quite odd at first, will make sense in some way.

For example, a child who does not want to be separated from you is likely to be thinking the same thing we all think about the people we love – what if something happens to you while you are away from them? A child who is scared of balloons would have probably experienced that jarring, terrifying panic that comes with the boom. It’s an awful feeling. Although we know it passes within moments, for a child who is still getting used to the world, the threat of that panicked feeling can be overwhelming. It can be enough to teach them that balloons pretend to be fun, but they’ll turn fierce without warning and the first thing you’ll know is the boom. #not-fun-you-guys

Worry becomes a problem when it causes a problem. If it’s a problem for your child or teen, then it’s a problem. When the fear seems to direct most of your child’s behaviour or the day to day life of the family (sleep, family outings, routines, going to school, friendships), it’s likely the fear has become too pushy and it’s time to pull things back.

So how do we get rid of the fear?

If you have a child with anxiety, they may be more prone to developing certain fears. Again, this is nothing at all to worry about. Kids with anxiety will mostly likely always be sensitive kids with beautiful deep minds and big open hearts. They will think and feel deeply, which is a wonderful thing to have. We don’t want to change that. What we want to do is stop their deep-thinking minds and their open hearts from holding them back.

The idea then, isn’t to get rid of all fears completely, but to make them manageable. As the adult in their lives who loves them, you are in a perfect position to help them to gently interact with whatever they are scared of. Eventually, this familiarity will take the steam out of the fear.

First of all though, it can be helpful for you and your child to know that other children just like them are going through exactly the same experience.

An age by age guide to fears.

When you are looking through the list, look around your child’s age group as well. Humans are beautifully complicated beings and human nature doesn’t tend to stay inside the lines. The list is a guide to common fears during childhood and the general age at which they might appear. There are no rules though and they might appear earlier or later.

Infants and toddlers (0-2)

•   Loud noises and anything that might overload their senses (storms, the vacuum cleaner, blender, hair dryer, balloons bursting, sirens, the bath draining, abrupt movement, being put down too quickly).

Here’s why: When babies are born, their nervous systems are the baby versions. When there is too much information coming to them through their senses, such as a loud noise or being put down too quickly (which might make them feel like they’re falling), it’s too much for their nervous systems to handle.


(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)


They’ll Do What? The What and the Why of the Changes that Come With Adolescence, by Karen Young


The changes we see in our kids when they hit adolescence can leave many of us with a sense of whiplash. The tiny adorable humans who wanted to us to read to them, sing to them, cuddle them, kiss them goodbye at parties, at some point become … different. Loved, wonderful, funny, creative – but different, in a way that’s not so tiny or adorable. And don’t even joke about kissing them goodbye at parties. Or anywhere else where there might be people.

We blame raging hormones, lack of sleep, friends, ‘that show’ they’ve been watching, social media. Then there are the days – plenty of them – that we blame ourselves, wondering what we did or didn’t do that could possibly explain what’s going on.

What’s going on is adolescence. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. The changes they are going through are all being driven by a brain that is undergoing a massive renovation. It has to be this way to get them ready to be healthy, strong, productive, happy adults.

If you can understand what is happening in their brains, what they are doing will make sense. You’ll still find yourself baffled, angry, bewildered, sad – all of those things – but hopefully less than you would otherwise. You’re building humans, great ones, and as with anything that is worth the effort, it won’t always run to schedule, it definitely won’t look the way you thought it would, and some days – probably plenty – it will be a red hot mess.

In the same way they will wobble and fall when they are little people learning to walk and master their physical selves, they will also wobble and fall as their brains take develop into the adult forms. Keeping this in mind will help things run smoother.

The Changes that Every Adolescent Will go Through

  1. Adolescence – the apprenticeship for adulthood.

    The changes in the brain during adolescence are dramatic. They have to be – the transition from childhood to adulthood wouldn’t happen without some serious neural remodelling. During adolescence, they will be driven to experiment with the world and their place in it, try new things (important for their new adult roles), let go of the family and seek out peers, form strong social connections and think independently. Every one of these changes is there to fulfil an important developmental role and bridge the vast gap they will travel between childhood and adulthood. The results will be worth it but like any renovation, things will get messy for a while.

(To read more of this article, follow the link below…)


How to help your teen build esteem, by Brenda in Canada, from her blog “I’m Confident”


Every new school year is the start of something different and for many teens it is the start of more problems.  They are already experiencing drastic changes in their bodies which can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.  Added to that are overwhelming pressures to become that ‘perfect’ and ‘beautiful/handsome’ person so they will be accepted by their peers.  Teens start looking around and comparing themselves to actors, actresses, models and the kids that have been labelled ‘popular’.  They believe that everyone else is better looking, smarter and has more friends.  They seen themselves as inferior and unworthy.   These untrue beliefs cause them to put their value in how they look and what they have instead of who they are.

We should never measure ourselves against other people because we are all unique individuals.  We can’t possibly be the same as somebody else and we are not supposed to be.  Many of the people we are comparing ourselves to, are often very insecure about themselves.

Teens need to develop confidence and increase their self-esteem so they will be able to stand up to negative peer pressures and make good choices in life.  As parents, we can help our own children and any teens we are connected to.  Here are some ways that we can help them build esteem:

  1. Show love – Take very opportunity to show how much you love your children.  No, they don’t just know!!! You have to tell them and show them.  A child who feels loved at home won’t go looking for love in all the wrong places.

(To read more, follow the link below…)


“Boyhood”, the Movie: A Review by Chris Knopp

Boyhood Collage

With no plot whatsoever to speak of, no memorable action scenes, and no earth shattering new philosophy on life, Richard Linklater’s recent movie Boyhood has on the face of it, much to be underwhelmed by.  Already knowing the premise of the movie I had assumed that it would be ideal to review for ‘The Forever Years’ but now, only a month or so after viewing it, I struggle to recall much of the detail.

So I was curious that despite this, I would still rate it as a must see.  What was going on here?  What essence of the human condition did it cause to resonate in me? Why do I want my own kids to watch this movie?

Let’s be done with some of the more superficial reasons first.  Patricia Arquette – what’s not to like?  No surprises at all re her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win in her role of mum – a wonderfully nuanced performance.  The rest of the cast are solid too – especially Ellar Coltrane in the title role.

Mason Early

The character Mason (Coltrain) with his “Mum” and “sister” early on in the movie

And speaking of Coltrane, I’m sure most people are aware that this film was shot over twelve years with the same cast so that we actually do see the character Mason, literally grow up on the screen in front of us.  Much has been made of this – “different & daring”, “an important landmark in how great films can be made”, “a master stroke in casting” and so on.  For me, this aspect of the movie was irrelevant and frankly unnecessary – a cool thing to have done, sure, but it added nothing to the movie per se.  I’m perfectly used to effortlessly suspending disbelief when it comes to characters aging across lifetimes in movies.  If it hadn’t been such a talking point prior to its release, I would never have noticed it was the same actor throughout – simply because I had assumed, as I do in ALL such movies, that of course it was the same person!

The next possible reason for loving this movie is a much more subjective one and probably not one that will influence too many others.  Richard Linklater, the director.  The first movie of his I saw was Waking Life.  This is a mind-bending exploration of the fringes of dreams, perception, and reality, a ‘meaning of life’ movie  – a thinking man’s Matrix.  With both Ethan Hawke and Linklater’s own daughter, Loralei, featuring in both movies, there is a cross-over effect that makes it difficult for me not to view the second movie in the same light as the first.  I have watched Waking Life probably at least 15 times now and each time find in it something amazing and new.  How could a movie from such a director not be great?

I recently watched another classic coming of age movie with my older boys.  Stand by Me has to be one of my all-time top 10 movies.  It captures an essence of boyhood that we might all have wanted to experience – an exciting, yet serious and scary, adventure with our best friends, aged twelve, coloured with humour, loyalty, loss and grief.  All this narrated via the nostalgic voice of a middle aged man with his own children who desperately misses his “forever years” and the friends that inhabited them.  But Stand by Me isn’t actually how it was for most of us, and probably not even how it was for the author (Stephen King), on whose short story it was based. It depicts a golden age, an end to innocence, and that inexorable creep of the world turning from the primary colours of right and wrong, to the smudgy beige that life resigns us to.

But Boyhood is not nostalgic.  It doesn’t glorify the highs or over-dramatise the lows.  It depicts an average life.  It could as easily have based the story on your life or mine.  And it’s not just about the boy.  We see each character grow, change, evolve over the course of twelve years – and the multiple interactions between individual characters also develop and change.  It’s not the things that are said and done that are memorable, but as often the things that are not said or not done. It’s the expression that passes between mother and son, a pause in the conversation between the parents, a defiant pose by the sister, – it’s these, often tiny, subtleties that cause us to ‘know’ these people.

There’s almost a sense of The Truman Show here – though we’re not watching for entertainment, nor for a story line, nor action, nor thrills, – we’re watching real people, feeling what real people feel, and understanding why they do what they do. It’s almost too personal and slightly uncomfortable – it doesn’t give us the personal space we expect in most movies.  They are you, they are me, they are every person. We come away understanding a little better, the thing we might call the human condition.


Meet the cast: Dad (Ethan Hawke), Mason (Ellar Coltrane), Mum (Patricia Arquette), Grandma (Libby Villari), and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).  One of the later scenes of the film.

I said that I wanted my own children to some day see this movie.  I couldn’t initially pinpoint exactly why.  It occurred to me that it might be to illustrate some aspect of choices and consequences, and I’m sure there are probably some good examples that could be extracted here.  But somehow I felt it was something deeper than this.  It wasn’t really until the final scene that the idea came into focus.

The tough times, whether they applied to just the boy, or his mother, or the entire family, were always short-lived.  Sure, the movie skips ahead months or occasionally even years at a time, so of course things move on and things get better or people adjust.  But in our own lives, and especially in the lives of children, these times truly can seem like “forever”. We believe “things will always be this bad.  There’s no way I can see this getting better.  How can I face a future like this?” The movie provides a fast forward to the near future and gives real meaning to the wise advice from the well known anecdote, “it will pass”.

Seeing this repeatedly throughout the movie, reinforces the concept that life is a journey, not a destination.  It’s a bit like Dunedin weather – if you don’t like it, wait 20 minutes!  Understanding this about life gives you a resilience that bolsters your faith that dark clouds will give way to sunshine, and prepares you, without fear, for their return.

In the final scene there is a sense of newness, an exciting future, and a joie de vivre that allows Mason to truly take happiness from the fullness of his life so far, and take on with confidence, whatever the future holds for him. This resilience is the most important thing I would hope my own children might take from the wisdom of Boyhood.

Below:  The trailer for “Boyhood”.


The teen parenting manual that made it in the trash By Lara Patangan

cropped-unnamed.jpgReblogged from the blog “Mercy Me I’ve Got Work to Do” by Lara Patangan (link to original below).https://mercyme40.wordpress.compatanganfamily2014_107 1

My son turns 13 years-old on Black Friday. Could there be a more ominous sign than that? While hoards of shoppers are waking up at 3 a.m. to suffer through lines and duke it out for deals, my sweet baby, ever so dear, will be entering the darkness that often accompanies the teenage years.

As if he is already rehearsing for the big day of black, my house has recently been filled with a cacophony of slamming doors, woeful sighs and whispers under the breath that I am pretty sure do not include any sweet nothings. It sounds like a coarse symphony that does nothing to evoke my sympathies.

I called a friend a few weeks ago and in a prayerful plea, asked in the name of all that is holy, all that is sane, and all that is merciful, to lend me every parenting book she owns.

She brought me five.

The small stack of books sat in my office and my younger son asked me why I had so many teenager books. Before I could even formulate a response, he answered his own question — obviously remembering his brother’s upcoming birthday.   “Oh yeah, it’s going to be a long seven years…,” he said prophetically.

Seven years? Why do the terrible twos get all the notoriety? That’s one measly year and they are still small enough to be restrained.

As I read, I began strategizing, thinking of systems to implement and solutions to employ. I realized that, if necessary, doors could be unhinged. He would inevitably realize that not loading the dishwasher would be to his disadvantage.   And, I felt hopeful that discussions could be facilitated without anyone actually dying.

Ah, I was going to be the most brilliant teenage mother ever.

I started writing a sort of manifesto for the teen years. I clicked away at the computer thinking to myself that I was doing the holy work of writing the instruction manual for parenting that I always wished I had.

Although my business interests have never evolved passed retail and at that, only on the paying side of the cash register, I had ultimately written my first business plan.

It read like a contract, with caveats and consequences included for clarity. It featured equations for various if/then scenarios and it clearly proved that my naiveté is boundless.

I actually believed that what I had written would be embraced – that is until I proudly emailed a trusted friend with the teen manual, which I intended to present to my son. She is tactful to a fault, so when she suggested that my glorious parenting plan would evoke a middle finger response I was stunned.


I reread my work. It was so beautiful. It had italics and bullet points and fancy words like parameters, privileges, outlined and occasionally.

I guess I could see where it was kind of bossy pants-ish, but it did include a smiley emoticon and an I love you.

I signed it not with the slang, Yo mama, but with the sincere, sweet,your mama that was so obviously me.

Later that night, with my two-page, single-spaced manifesto by my side I sat down and spoke with my son. Maybe it was because I was lulled by the soothing sound of the dishwasher that my tween ran without my mention, but I was uncannily calm. We talked about grades, basketball and ways he could earn extra money.


We didn’t hold hands, or hug or do anything that would invoke Norman Rockwell to paint us, but we talked. I didn’t boss or dictate either, yet I didn’t digress from making my expectations clear.

When we finished talking, he kissed me goodnight and there I sat – the manifesto, a mostly-read parenting book and myself.

I thought about ripping up my beautiful plan I had written about how the teen years would unfold in our home, but I didn’t have the energy to be so dramatic.   I simply folded it into a little square to put in the trash.

I guess what I realized is that maybe the reason children don’t come with instructions is because parenting isn’t meant to be precise. It might be insightful to read some books, or even to write your own plan about how you intend to parent, but often intentions and plans don’t really have much to do with raising children.

Like the rest of us, children are unique and, like it or not, have plans of their own. They will make their own path in the world and it’s our job to guide them as they do. It is a delicate balance between letting go and holding on. Sometimes it’s letting pieces fall where they may, and sometimes it means picking up the pieces and starting over again.

Maybe parenthood could best be described as prayer – a combination of something we hope for, ask of, praise, repent, and offer thanks. It is an active petition that is said every time we discipline, praise, share affection, or just sit and talk. The prayer does not end, like love, it endures time, tantrums and even teenagers. It is an offering of the best of ourselves so that someone we love can become the best of their selves. It is sacrifice, surrender, forgiveness, and humility.

Parenting may be described as more gut-wrenching than glorious, but it is no doubt the most Holy work we can do.

While my son may turn 13 on a day dubbed Black Friday, it’s no coincidence this falls the day after Thanksgiving. After all, he has been a blessing everyday of his life. He is a prayer and a gift.

Of course, I know the years ahead won’t be easy, but I can’t help but feel excited about all that awaits.  The spectrum of joy, discovery and promise that lies ahead is sure to be anything but black.