22 March 2024 Nurturing Courage: Understanding & Empowering Children to Face Uncertainty

“Change is The Only Constant in Life”

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus provided an accurate description of life. It's a fact that not everything in life goes according to plan. Unexpected events, such as moving to a new place, changing careers, or going through tough times, can happen to anyone. Uncertainty is a natural part of life, whether it arises from significant changes in our lives, or from dealing with a global crisis like a pandemic.

It's difficult to live in uncertainty. Just like our basic need for food and shelter, we also require information about the future. When things feel uncertain, our brains kick in with a stress response, in an effort to protect us. Our minds wouldn’t be at rest until things are back to being certain and clear. However, as we learn to navigate through uncertainty, we also build resilience and adaptability, making us stronger for whatever lies ahead. 

As a parent, you may have noticed that your child can sometimes struggle with uncertainty. Whether it's starting at a new school, making new friends, or dealing with changes in the family, they are on their own unique journey that can be full of uncertainty. Helping your child understand and cope with these life surprises can provide them with a steady guide to growing up and make it an exciting adventure rather than a bumpy ride. In this article, we aim to provide you with some insights into your child's fear of uncertainty and give you the tools you need to help them navigate the unpredictability of life more effectively.

Identifying Fear of Uncertainty in Your Child

To start off, it's important to recognize when your child is feeling uncertain. Studies show that even little ones can sense when things are uncertain, even if they can't quite put it into words. Instead of directly saying they feel worried or unsure, kids might show it in more subtle ways. You might observe them expressing their feelings of uncertainty through:

Physical Responses
Tantrums, meltdowns, hitting, throwing or breaking items.
Emotional Responses
Crying, withdrawing, feelings of anger, frustration, fear or anxiety.
Behavioral Responses

Avoiding situations, hesitating, not following instructions or not listening to parents or teachers.

The Neuroscience of Fear of Uncertainty

Now let's look inside your child's brain, where the fear of uncertainty takes center stage and uncover how gene influences this intricate dance. There is a region of the brain that is responsible for controlling anxiety called the ‘Amygdala’. Imagine the brain as a bustling city, with the Amygdala as the guardian on high alert. In times of uncertainty, the Amygdala signals danger, releasing stress chemicals. This old protection system, which is essential for survival, has been a constant companion for thousands of years.

Now picture the brain as having two friendly neighbors: the logical left brain and the emotional right brain. The left brain prefers order and language, whereas the right brain is more concerned with emotions and the big picture. During anxiety, the right brain tends to take over, resulting in a whirlpool of feelings that may be overwhelming and not make sense straight away.

Now, enter the COMT gene, the genetic architect influencing how the brain handles stress. There are two variants: the ‘Worrier’ and the ‘Warrior’. The Worrier variant break down stress chemicals slower causing individuals with the ‘Worrier’ gene to perform well in low-stress conditions but struggle with uncertainty, being prone to worry and anxiety. On the other hand, the ‘Warrior’ variant breaks down stress chemicals faster causing individuals with the ‘Warrior’ variant to thrive under pressure, benefiting from stress as the motivation. When children with the ‘Worrier’ gene variant face uncertainty, the Amygdala's alarm ring louder. Their emotional side of the brain (right brain), guided by the COMT gene, can take the lead, making feelings more intense.  The logical left brain may find it a bit challenging to make sense of this emotional whirlwind.

For Children with the ‘Worrier’ gene variant, focusing on school projects and focused tasks can be a strength, thanks to their excellent attention and memory skills. Yet, they might struggle with worries and anxiety during stressful situations, like navigating social dynamics or facing constant academic pressure. On the other hand, children with the ‘Warrior’ gene variant excels in handling pressure, thriving in sports events and time-sensitive tasks. However, it's crucial to help them strike a balance. Even though they handle stress well, ensuring they don't overlook the long-term impact is essential for their emotional well-being.

It is noteworthy to recognise that there is no superior or inferior gene variant. Each variant has its own unique advantages. As parents, our responsibility is to support our child's genetic potential by providing an environment that meets their specific needs. To help your child thrive, here are some tips for creating the best possible environment for children with ‘Worrier’ and ‘Warrior’ gene variants:

Best Environment for Children with the ‘WORRIER’ Gene Variant:

Best Environment
1. Stability and Routine

Children with the ‘Worrier’ variant often thrive in stable environments with predictable routines. This predictability can reduce anxiety triggered by uncertainty.

Establish a consistent daily schedule for activities like meals, homework and bedtime. This structure can provide a sense of security and reduce stress.
2. Gentle Encouragement
Encourage new experiences and challenges in a gentle, supportive manner, without pushing too hard.
If your child is anxious about joining a sports team, start with attending games as a spectator, gradually moving to participating in practice sessions before joining the team.
3. Emotional Support
Offer plenty of emotional support and validation. Acknowledge their feelings and teach them coping mechanisms for anxiety.

Practice deep breathing or mindfulness exercises together when they feel overwhelmed, showing them practical ways to manage anxiety.

Best Environment for Children with the ‘WARRIOR’ Gene Variant:

Best Environment


1. Challenge and Physical Activity
Children with the ‘Warrior’ variant often benefit from environments that offer physical challenges and opportunities for exploration.
Encourage participation in sports, outdoor adventures, or other physical activities that channel their energy and resilience positively.
2. Intellectual Stimulation
Provide opportunities for problem-solving and critical thinking to engage their minds and satisfy their curiosity.
Introduce them to strategic games, science projects, or debate clubs that stimulate their intellectual engagement.
3. Autonomy and Responsibility
Allow them some autonomy to make decisions and take on responsibilities, fostering their natural leadership qualities and confidence.
Let them choose extracurricular activities or lead a small household project, giving them a sense of control and accomplishment.

Calming the Emotional & Logical Side of Brain

As parents, guiding your children to stay calm while managing their big emotions is vital. We can achieve this by helping them balance the logical left side and emotional right side of the brain. Let's explore a practical way to calm the Amygdala for each side of the brain:

Right Side - Emotional
Left Side - Logical
The Right side of the brain is non-verbal and emotional, where your child experiences and processes emotions.
The Left side of the brain is logical and analytical, helping your child make sense of their experiences.
How to Calm: 
Empathy and Validation
Identification and Labelling of Emotion
Practical Demonstration:

When they express anxiety, listen empathetically, and validate their feelings. 

"I understand that uncertainty can be challenging for you. Your feelings are valid."

Encourage them to identify and label their emotions. 

"Let's figure out what you're feeling. Are you more worried, excited, or a mix of both?"

It's crucial to understand that when a child is experiencing an emotional outburst such as crying or throwing a tantrum, their emotional brain takes over. Trying to reason with them using their logical brain will likely be ineffective because their emotional brain is in control. For example, if your child is having a tantrum because they don’t want to go to school on the first day, saying things like "Get up! Stand up now! People are watching. I'm leaving you here." is actually an attempt to engage their logical brain and make them consider the consequences of their actions. However, this approach is unlikely to calm them down but might rather even aggravate the tantrum. Instead, it's best to show empathy and validation first (calm the emotional brain), and once they have calmed down, you can help them identify and label their emotions (engage the logical brain). In response to the child's school-related tantrum, you could say, "I understand it might be scary to go to a new place. It's okay to feel nervous. Let's talk about it together" (Empathy and Validation). After the child has calmed down, you might say, "It seemed like you were feeling really anxious about the first day of school. It's okay to feel that way. What specific thoughts or feelings were on your mind?" (Identification and Labelling of Emotion). 

It's really important to help our kids handle the ups and downs that come with uncertainty. Finding a balance between their logical thinking and emotional feelings is a big part of making sure they can deal with uncertainties in a good way. Offering a listening ear and understanding when they're upset, along with helping them put a name to their feelings creates a nice balance for them. It's all about making sure their hearts and minds work together smoothly! 

How To Teach Children to Effectively Deal with Uncertainty

No matter how much we try to protect our children, they'll still face uncertainties in their everyday life. Here are some recommendations on how to teach your child to deal with the uncertainties of life: 

Encourage Your Child to Embrace Uncertainty & Reflect on Past Wins 

Tell your child that change may be beneficial, but we must work for it to make it so. Ask your child to recall a moment when they were unsure about a change, but it turned out to be good. Life is filled with uncertainties, and at one point of another, everyone has successfully conquered them. When your child realises that they've conquered uncertainties before, it can empower them to tackle each day with optimism. Share stories of past uncertainties they've overcome to boost their confidence and resilience.

For instance, if it's the first day at a new school, tears and fears won't change the fact they need to go. Remind them that their first day in kindergarten was uncertain too, but they still managed to thrive and made friends. A positive and calm attitude can help them quickly make new friends and adapt. 

Acknowledge Their Feelings

Your aim is to listen, try to understand and let them know it's okay to feel that way, even if you don't see a reason for them to be anxious. Here are some helpful phrases to use and harmful phrases to avoid in making sure your child feels acknowledged:


“Don’t be scared.”

  • Reason: Dismisses feeling.
  • It implies that their fear is not valid or reasonable.
"I can see you're a bit anxious about meeting new people. It's normal to feel that way, and I'm here to support you as you navigate social situations."

 “You’ll be fine.”

  • Reason: Promises of safety.
  • You can't promise your child will never be injured riding a bike or they will never fail a test or they will never be in an embarrassing social situation.
“I notice you might be a little uneasy about taking on the challenge of riding your bike, but don't worry, I'll be right there beside you, offering guidance and support as you learn.”

“Are you worried about winning your upcoming public speaking competition?”

  • Reason: Leads to anxiety.
  • It directly suggests a potential source of stress.

"How are you feeling about your upcoming public speaking competition?"

Keep Moving Forward

Guide your child to avoid dwelling on things beyond their control. Worrying will not change the outcome and focusing on the bad will only increase anxiety. Encourage them to face uncertainties head-on and move forward. 

It's worth mentioning that avoiding situations that make us anxious or nervous actually makes anxiety stronger. Confronting our fears safely weakens anxiety. “Do it scared” is a great mindset to live by. The anxiety may not vanish completely, but facing tasks despite fear is the most effective way to cope. Here are some ways to encourage your child to do it even when they’re feeling scared:

  • Break down daunting tasks into smaller manageable steps.
  • Practice activities that cause anxiety in a safe environment.
  • Challenge them to do one thing even when they feel afraid this week.
  • Show confidence in your ability to support them through any challenge, reassuring them that nervousness lessens with practice.
  • Teach them to assess evidence. Our fears often stem from our thoughts about ourselves and the world. Help your child consider evidence for and against their anxious thoughts. Use past experiences of overcoming worries as examples.

Find the Hidden Treasure

Help your child see uncertainty as a thrilling treasure hunt where surprises await. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, encourage them to come up with three to five positive outcomes that they can look forward to. Let's say your child is uncertain about starting a new school. Help them envision positive outcomes such as:

  • Making new friends.
  • Discovering exciting subjects to learn.
  • Creating fond memories with teachers and friends.

Life is a journey full of changes and surprises, just like Heraclitus said so long ago. Whether it’s big changes happening around the world or the little challenges our kids face, uncertainty can always feel so daunting. But as parents, we're like guides helping our kids navigate through it all. By tuning into how their brains work and being there for them with love and support, we're giving them the superpowers to handle uncertainties like the little champions they are!  

Equip yourself with the knowledge to empower your child on their journey through life. Discover their unique strengths and tendencies with our Decode Talent DNA Test (DTDT). Understanding is the first step to empowering your child against the challenges of uncertainty. Do visit us at www.agtgenetics.com for more information.


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