In response to my email this week asking you to send me your questions. I have picked this very topical question to answer, however it does tie in with some of the other questions that were related to children being unhappy with new and different situations, which means you can relate it to your own child’s situation.
Here is one parent’s question;
“My 3 1/2 year old daughter seems to be scared of everything, she doesn’t like
Santa, she was chosen to be Mary in the nativity but is doing nothing because she's
scared of being on stage. a boy at nursery was wearing a spiderman mask for fancy
dress n even thou she knew who it was I struggled to get her there the next day
in case he wore it again. I really have tried to be reassuring and have empathised
with her but its sooo frustrating to see her miss out on so much because of this. So
do I carry on letting her have so much fear in hope it’s a phase she'll grow out
of? Or is there something I can do to change the way she reacts to such events?
Hope to hear from u soon, as Santa is coming to nursery next week n would love
her to enjoy the experience.”
I can really understand your frustration of not wanting your daughter to miss out on these activities and be frightened of things.
I have seen this sort of anxiety in a lot with young children, however there are things that you can do to help her to change the way that she reacts to these situations. Here are a few tips that can be used as a general guideline for you to adapt to your daughters needs and circumstance. As Santa comes to nursery this week I do hope that they help a little, even if it means you are going in the right direction and she grows in confidence.
Let’s look at what can make the situation worse or prolong it.
· Accidentally rewarding the behaviour, by giving it too much attention, too much fuss, hugs and cuddles can mean that it is a good thing to make a fuss.
· Reacting too much to her insecurity, for example if you try too hard to talk her out of it or to get her to do something, it can make things worse by making her feel more self conscious.
· Making her feel bad or humiliated, by using or saying negative things like “Don’t be silly” or “Look at Tommy he will do it”, or making negative remarks after the event such as “You should have smiled you looked miserable”.
Things that you can do to change the way she reacts to the situation.
· Stay calm and try not to react in a nervous way yourself, if you stay calm she is far more likely to stay calm herself.
· Use empathy, making sure it is not too much, just make a comment such as “Do you feel nervous, that’s OK it’s normal to feel a little nervous”.
· Reassure her and again don’t overdo it and rather than say you will be alright if you do it, if possible, say it’s ok if you don’t want to do it this time , this way you are giving her the option and she will feel more in control.
· Trust that she will join in, because once you send out the signals that you trust her and you are at ease, she will feel calmer which will help her to join in. Children are very sensitive to their parent’s anxiety so try hard to focus on feeling positive yourself and not so much on her anxiety, and then she will pick up on that and relax more. You can do this by having a positive mindset, and changing any negative thoughts that you have into positive ones such as, ‘I think she will enjoy this and join in a little today’.
· Praise her attempts no matter how small even if she just stands on the stage as Mary, tell her how great she was at.
· Reward her efforts and remember that children will do more of what they get attention for, so it is vital that you reward the behaviour that you want for example, offer to do something that she likes because she tried really hard.
· Take things a baby step at a time by looking at the bigger picture and working towards her really enjoying Christmas nativities and Santa more next year perhaps.
Here’s an example;
While working in a nursery of 20 children 3 and 4 year olds I would see lots of children anxious at trying new things. For example, we would have PE (physical education) in the hall all together which was great fun but it could be quiet daunting for some children. There would always be a few new ones that would cry and not want to join in at the start of the new term. I found that the best thing to do was to let them sit on the bench and watch for a while.
While a few children would join in if they had a little encouragement, if I saw that they were getting anxious I would reassure them that it is fine if they want to sit and watch the others for a while and that they could come and join in when you are ready. If they got off the bench I would ask them to sit down and wait until we has finished PE, this way they were not accidentally rewarding with doing something else they would prefer.
Periodically I would give them smile put my hand out and ask you like to join now? When they were ready whether it was in a few minutes or after a few sessions, they would get up and join in.
The situations that you mentioned have happened at nursery, so make sure you talk to the staff about them, let them know about spiderman and his mask as they may ask him to take it off, it was always my policy not to allow masks as they can upset lots of children. I know you can’t make the rules at nursery but keep them informed it should help.
If you like this tip and would like more why not download my book; http://bit.ly/CBDBOOK
All the best Ruth