• Michael Cox, MA, LPC

Fear: A Father and Son’s Journey

Updated: 1 day ago


One evening, at the dinner table, we were discussing the topic of fear. Everyone was sharing what they were afraid of, and our boys were taking advantage of my being vulnerable and confessing a fear of owls. The man they see as strong and confident, yields to the presence of a bird.


Our youngest son then makes a statement that we recently revisited while on vacation; he stated, “I am not afraid of the dark, I am afraid of what’s in the dark.” This was his explanation for why he previously kept a night light on in his room. There is so much substance in this way of thinking because fear prompted him to take action - an action that assured comfort of sleep and mental wellness through potential struggle.


When it comes to parenting, fear can often stifle our children, as opposed to being a motivating growth factor for building resilience. On our most recent family vacation we were exploring The Continental Divide and taking in the beautiful sites that encompassed us. The same son appeared restless and repeatedly asked if “this was all that we are going to do?” I responded with “Yes and if there is something more you want to do, speak up and let us know.” He responded with, “I was just asking,” while peering at the mountain in front of us.


As his father, I believe I know him well and understand that he has an adventurous spirit. Everything in me said that climb was too dangerous, we did not have the appropriate gear, and I know that is exactly what he wanted to do. We began the descent to return to our car and I asked, “Son would you like to climb the mountain?” His eyes lit up, my heart was racing, and the rest of the family wasn’t having it. We assessed our approach, took a deep breath, and with great intentions we began to scale the mountain.


Thankfully there was an established path that guided us toward our destination. We could see there were areas where snow remained from the most recent snow and blanketed multiple portions of the path. With guidance from a couple of park rangers and some patience, we traversed three of the four snow obstacles. My son followed as I guided him to step in places where I stepped; he followed as I instructed him to lean back so that if he were to slip, he would land on his bottom and not tumble forward. I held his hand at times and pulled him toward me when he appeared anxious and afraid, assuring him that I was with him, and we would do this together.


As we approached our final 20 yards to the top of the mountain, there was one more patch of snow covering the pathway. It was very steep; the snow was quite thick, and the risks were great. I had to make a decision, looking in his eyes I said, “We have come very far, son, but we are not equipped to finish this climb.” I had led him through many fears to this point and yet one obstacle lay before us that almost crippled me.


I wanted him to know the joy of reaching the top and overcoming fear yet, listening to my fear and caution, we were ill-equipped and the consequences of moving forward could have been great. I turned to him and said, “We must turn back; it is too dangerous.” He looked at me and with total trust, agreed. As we descended the mountain, we revisited the conversation about fear and he reminded me of what he had said months earlier; “Dad, I am not afraid of the dark, but what is in the dark.”


I was immediately reminded of my role as a father. My initial fears could have robbed me of the experience with him and possibly hindered his given ambition. However, the steps taken to scale the mountain reinforced how we are to lead our children through fear and possibly how fear can be a healthy motivator. Here are some suggestions for parents as they navigate fear, your own and those of your children:


1. Share your concerns and fears with your children – it reminds them of your humanity.

2. Assess the danger but don’t let fear stifle the opportunities – sometimes we as parents try to protect to such a degree, they don’t experience life.

3. Climb through the trenches with them – a major part of building resilience is climbing the mountain and at times slipping on the path.

4. Know when to stop – we have been entrusted as parents for a reason. Fear can be a motivator that either stifles or wisely informs progress.


Michael S. Cox MA, LPC is a Level 2 Certified Restoration Therapist and seeks to utilize this training in assisting individuals, marriages and families to discover their God-given potential and to see it actualized. He had been in private practice and consulting since January of 2020 and utilizes a holistic approach in providing treatment. Together with his wife they conduct marriage seminars, coach couples in preparation for marriage and walk with families seeking to live healthy lives. Additionally, he utilizes his 20+ years of working with young people to inform and drive his work with adolescent development and emotional regulation. He is the proud husband of wife Coloma and father to their three young boys.



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