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September 25, 2012

Sebastien Foucan on How To Help Kids Overcome Their Fears

Can you do that? Photo courtesy of foucan.com

If the name Sebastien Foucan doesn’t ring a bell, the initial chase scene in the James Bond movie Casino Royale will. He’s the unseemingly fit villain who outruns Daniel Craig , takes a 275-foot jump from one crane to another and basically uses city buildings like an adult-size jungle gym. You have to see what he does to believe it. Besides being a world-class athlete, an actor and the creator of an extreme sport called freerunning, Sebastien is also a dad of two kids roughly the same age as my girls. I was lucky to see him talk on the topic of fear at TedX Ealing last week and waited for him at the intermission at the top of the stairs. I hoped I could ask him a few questions on his style of parenting. I was lucky, he wasn’t surrounded by hefty bodyguards or talking to his PR person on the phone. I called his name and asked him a few questions in French on how to help children overcome their fears.

I am proud to to present this micro-interview, scribbled on the go on my notebook without any prep.

Me: “Sebastien, can I please ask you a few questions?”

Sebastien Foucan: “Sure, what about?”

Me: “I write a mommy blog on raising kids as tomorrow’s adventurers and explorers and I’ve got two girls aged 7 and 8. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to help kids overcome their fears. I was very impressed by the video showed before your talk and I still can’t believe you’re afraid of heights. How can you be when you jumped from a crane in Casino Royale!”

Sebastien Foucan: “Well, I’m really afraid of heights and that’s why I talk about overcoming your fears because I believe anybody can overcome their fears with practice. To prepare that crane jump, I climbed up and down the crane every day during 30 days until I knew the structure like the back of my hands. Fear can prevent anybody to grow and if you don’t face your fears, you will never progress.”

Me: “Wow.Still, very impressed. Concerning children, you mentioned earlier in the talk you had children of your own?”

Sebastien Foucan: “Yes, they’re 4 and 8.”

Me: “Based on your personal experience, how do you teach them to overcome their fears? I mean, do you do that at home?”

Sebastien Foucan: “I’ll tell you the truth. Kids have nothing to learn from adults when it comes to fears. If anything, it’s adults who should make sure they don’t teach their fears and phobias to their children.”

Me: “Like that spider example you used?”

Sebastien Foucan: “Exactly. My wife is afraid of spiders. I believe the role of parents is to guide children and to help them find their path. My 8-year old wasn’t afraid of spiders when she was a toddler. She loved looking at bugs, touching them. Now she’s afraid of spiders.”

Me: “So what do you do about it?”

Sebastien Foucan: “Kids like to experiment and parents should let them experiment. Fear is a point of view, it’s a way of seeing something differently from others. Parents need to help their kids get rid of the drama in their lives.”

Me: “Example?”

Sebastien Foucan: “At school because of the mass environment, kids are taught a lot of things and sometimes kids misunderstand or misinterpret. Teachers don’t have the time to teach one-on-one at the child’s pace. When you realize as a parent that your child is afraid of something, you have to take the time to explain what it is without any shortcuts. Shortcuts can be very damagging in a child’s understanding.”

Me: “Any last words?”

Sebastien Foucan: “As adults we like to wear a mask in frot of children and pretend we are invincible. We are not. We must acknowledge our fears and face them. This will be more help to your children than anything else.”

Me: “Thank you Sebastien!”

Thank you really because I’d never thought of fears as a point of view. I, myself, used to be ridiculously afraid of spiders. However I didn’t want my girls to grow up arachnophobic like me so I took them on a tarantula walk on Mount Diablo. I wanted them to hear from a naturalist what kind of animal tarantulas are, what they eat, how they sleep, how they move around. Later I bought a Smithsonian book on spiders. For my hiking guidebook, I had to research fun facts about turret spiders and funnel spiders, wolf spiders and black widows. At home we started observing spiders and shoving them outside rather than squashing them inside. The result? I’m not entirely convinced my girls love spiders but they’re not afraid of them either. Spiders are just another kind of arthropod, like it or not. I’m much more rational about spiders too now that I’ve learned so much on their habitat and behaviors.

As Sebastien said, if you don’t face your fears, you won’t progress. Food for thought, definitely.

To find out more about Sebastien Foucan:

  • His website www.foucan.com - check out his Action Showreel, a little gem that will make your kids gasp in wonder.
  • Just for kicks, the Casino Royale chase scene: on YouTube here.
  • On Wikipedia: here.

 

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