When faced with new situations, kids fall into two camps. They either: 1) soldier on and explore these new experiences eagerly; or 2) shake their heads and shrink back. It’s normal for young children to feel uncomfortable in new situations — after all, the unfamiliar is unsafe and possibly uncomfortable. Why take the risk?
But parents know that their kids eventually have to learn how to branch out of their comfort zone, whether it’s trying a new food or visiting the dentist for the first time. We don’t want our kids to cling to our pants forever, right?
Here are some tips from FamilyShare, Huffington Post, and A Mother Far From Home on helping kids feel comfortable in new situations.
1. Remember that all kids are different
One of your kids may handle new situations better than the other, and that’s perfectly normal. Children, like adults, have their own unique sets of strengths and weaknesses, and it’s our job as parents to help them flourish, not turn them into someone else altogether.
2. Prepare them
If you’re planning on taking your kid somewhere new, like a hair salon or an airplane ride, explain to them what’s going to happen. Describe what they’re going to see and experience, and ask them to repeat it back to you in their own words so they can digest the information properly. For toddlers, you can use just a few words. A Mother Far From Home has this example:
“A nice lady will use scissors to cut your hair. No crying or fussing and when we’re all done we’ll eat lunch. Can you say, ‘yes, mommy?’”
You could also role-play and practice various situations that they’ll need to prepare for. This will help your child feel more confident and prepared.
3. Give a little push
Image source: iStock
Unless it’s 100% necessary, you shouldn’t force your child into situations they clearly aren’t comfortable with. So if your toddler hates the water, perhaps now isn’t the best time to enrol him in swimming class. However, giving your kids a little push in the right direction isn’t so bad. If your child is a little shy, don’t let him hole himself up at home with a video game; instead, you could sign him up in a class that he’s interested in so he can interact with like-minded kids. Make opportunities for him to grow.
4. Baby steps
If your child is afraid of bodies of water, instead of throwing her in the pool and hoping that she’ll get over it eventually, help her feel comfortable with water by playing with the garden hose or water guns.
5. Be calm
Just as you need to prepare your child for a stressful situation, you need to prepare yourself so you can react properly when things don’t go as planned. If, despite all your preparation, your child still freaks out, don’t make him feel worse by acting embarrassed or panicky. Instead, give them a few moments to calm themselves down and let them know that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
If your child handled the new situation well, praise them and tell them how proud you are of them. If things didn’t go as smoothly as you would’ve liked, ask them lovingly and calmly about what happened. This will help you understand your child more, and helps them decompress and learn from their mistakes as well.