My Child's Afraid of Letting Others Down: Why and How to Help Them

The fear of letting others down can appear around the age of 7. Do you want to know why and how to help your child overcome it?
My Child's Afraid of Letting Others Down: Why and How to Help Them

Last update: 03 July, 2022

It’s possible that at some point in our child’s life, the fear of letting others down or failing to fulfill their parents’ or other people’s expectations may appear. The main problem is that this can end up affecting them and we must learn to help them release the burden and guilt.

Fear is a frequent feeling throughout life and we shouldn’t see it as something negative, because it’s not. On the contrary, it helps us to be forewarned and prevents us from taking certain risks that may endanger our life or our physical integrity. Therefore, we can say that it’s an adaptive and necessary emotion.

The problem arises when fear blocks us, when it becomes irrational, and when it interferes significantly with our life.

In this article, we’re going to talk about a specific type of fear, which is the fear of letting others down. Why does it appear and how can we help our children overcome it? Keep reading to find out.

Children’s fears, why do they appear?

During childhood, it’s normal for different fears to arise, especially when facing unknown and uncertain situations. Fears evolve depending on the age or developmental stage of the child and this is completely normal.

When our children are babies, their fears are related to being away from their mother, father, or caregiver and facing unknown people. Then, between the ages of 4 and 6, fears evolve towards fantastic or unrealistic issues, such as monsters and ghosts. But from the age of 7, the fear of disappointing their parents or people who love them begins to appear.

A frightened child in a dark room surrounded by images of ghosts.
Children’s fears appear during the early stages of life and evolve with development and age. Nevertheless, they’re necessary and healthy emotions, so it’s important to teach them how to manage them correctly.

What can be the causes of the fear of letting others down?

When the fear of letting others down appears in children or adolescents, its causes can be very diverse. Among them we can highlight the following:

  • Fear of making mistakes and feeling judged.
  • Past mistakes or failures that haven’t been well managed or even for which they’ve been punished.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Parents with an authoritarian or overprotective educational style.
  • Insecurities.
  • Excessive perfectionism. Children who think that if they don’t do everything perfectly, they’ll disappoint the people they love or care about.
  • Shame.
  • Irrational beliefs about the love or approval of others (they believe that this depends on how well or badly they do something). “If I let them down, they won’t love me anymore.”

How can we help them manage this fear?

All parents worry and feel uneasy when we see how our children are harmed by certain situations and we try to find ways to help them so that they don’t suffer.

Here are some keys to helping your child overcome the fear of letting others down. Take note!

  • Identify what’s causing the child’s fear.
  • Talk to them and explain that in certain situations, it’s normal to feel fear.
  • Let them see that you’re there for them, that you’ll always be there for them, and that you’ll support them no matter what.
  • Never make fun of their fears.
  • Validate their emotions and what they feel. Don’t try to minimize their fear; don’t tell him “you don’t have to be afraid” or “you have no reason to feel this way”.
  • Teach them that failure and mistakes are part of the human condition. We’ve all made mistakes and we’ll make them again. Moreover, mistakes help us learn and grow as people.
  • Evaluate your parenting style and think about whether, in some way, you’re pressuring your child or making them feel that they have to excel at everything in order not to let you down.
  • Offer them resources and options so they can manage that fear of letting you down.
  • Explain that even if they don’t do everything perfectly, no one will stop loving them and they won’t feel let down.
  • Don’t transmit your own fears. Keep in mind that you’re the mirror in which your children are reflected.
A child looking shy and hugging his mother at the hip.
When you notice that your child is anxious for fear of letting you down, evaluate what issues may be causing this feeling and then reinforce how important they are to you, regardless of what they accomplish.

Allow them to grow and experience

Many children feel this fear because they’ve been raised through an overprotective or authoritarian style of parenting, which isn’t a good thing. In the end, it ends up generating problems in self-esteem and in the child’s development. Although it’s difficult to give our children some freedom, it’s important to help them to gain autonomy, always with clear limits. They need to acquire skills independently and have the certainty that nothing will happen if they fail in something. Working on their self-esteem is essential to combat this fear of letting others down. We must make it clear that our love doesn’t depend on the results obtained in certain situations.

On how to help a child with fear of letting others down

The fear of letting others down begins to appear around the age of 7 when children are already aware of their mistakes and the consequences of them. It’s important that from an early age, we let them know that they’re valuable people, that they have many capabilities, and that their mistakes will help them to learn and grow.

Show your child that you’ll always love them for the wonderful person they are and not for what they achieve. And furthermore, that their efforts will lead them to achieve great things.

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