When Fear Strangles Your Child

July 25, 2016 by Jenny Melrose

Do you have a child hesitant to try new things?  Are they only willing to try something after much hesitation and with reluctance?  If so then we can stand together because we know all to well what it feels and looks like when fear strangles your child.

When Fear Strangles your Child

When Fear Strangles your Child

My oldest daughter is six and half.  She is going into first grade and she is the furthest thing from a risk taker, which is the opposite end of the spectrum from her father and I.  We are both risk takers.  Whether it’s in business, love and athletics.  We don’t hold back anything and we certainly don’t hesitate.  My oldest, on the other hand, hesitates and thinks out just about every step she takes.  We could literally see the wheels turning when she first took the leap to jump off of the bottom step of our stairs.

She worries and frets over new experiences and the unknown.  A perfect example is her dance recital in the Spring.  She took dance lessons for months without any issues and then about three months before the recital she would cry and carry on about how she didn’t want to go to dance.  It wasn’t the instructor because she adores her and it certainly wasn’t the dance moves because she had those down pat.  It was the fear of the unknown.

When she went off to kindergarten last year, I was a complete mess.  I worried whether she would make friends or take risks in class to learn new things.  My open letter to my kindergartner is still one of my most popular articles.  As a former teacher, I know the importance of those early years of education in reading, writing and math.  I found that she was actually great with the day to day.  There were issues when there was a field trip or assembly.  Luckily, her teacher saw the writing on the wall in the beginning of the year and acted quickly to alleviate her stress.

Here are some takeaways and ideas on how to alleviate their fear:

Consistency!  Be on time and stick to the schedule.  My daughter thrives when she has a schedule.  The best part of summer was when both of my girls were in camp in the morning because they knew exactly how their day would go.  Even when they weren’t in camp I made an effort to go to the pool everyday at the same time and stick to a schedule for lunch and quiet time.

Let them see someone else do it first.  We are fortunate that we have two girls, but not so fortunate that there are three and half years between them.  Luckily, my youngest is a complete dare devil and has no qualms about trying new things.   My oldest will often watch my youngest try something new, like tubing or doing the monkey bars, before she is willing to try it.

Be patient.  I’m not talking about your everyday patient, where you answer thirty-seven questions in a day.  I’m talking the type of patient where you feel like you need an entire bottle of wine after the event is over with.  Let me give you a for instance.  My oldest stands at the monkey bars just about every time we go to the playground.  We went to the playground earlier this week and she stood for twenty minutes debating about crossing the monkey bars.  This is a girl that can do a one handed cartwheel and takes gymnastics weekly!  She dropped down from he bars at least a dozen times and after much tears and lamenting we left the playground only to go back where she FINALLY crossed the monkey bars.  I should add that she did it with little to no exertion too.

Walk them through new experiences.  Explain how their day might go and what they might do differently.  Brand new experiences are difficult, but even worse when you don’t know what to expect.  Last year, I emailed my daughter’s teacher if they were going on a field trip so I could find out when they would be taking the bus and when they might be eating lunch.  I relayed this information back to my daughter by stating that they would be leaving after writer’s workshop and would be eating lunch after a quick presentation by the farm owners.  Relating it to her current expectations of her day made it easier for her to put it into perspective and put some her fears at ease.  When I didn’t have access to her teacher I asked a neighbor who had a daughter in kindergarten the previous year.  Schools and teachers have a tendency to do things similarly year after year.


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