As parents, we want to help our kids face their fears so they can enjoy life. Here are 5 tips to make an experience less traumatic and scary:
1. Do things gradually. If your child is afraid to go swimming, start by sitting on the edge of the pool with your feet in the water. Next, put on floaties and walk around in the shallow end. Finally, have your child crouch down with the water up to his or her neck. Anxiety is proportional to the magnitude of what is being experienced, which is why diving into the pool may be traumatizing, but each of the more gradual steps won’t be.
2. Never force. Coax instead. You want your child to feel like he or she is in control and mastering something, not just having something happen. More importantly, you will no longer be trusted.
3. Don’t yell, scream, or punish. The best way to have a child face his or her fears is to encourage. For example, “I didn’t think you were going to be able to do that today - I’m really impressed with your courage.” Giving kudos motivates kids.
4. Empathize. Talk about what you were afraid of when you were a kid and how you overcame it.
5. Never act disappointed. If your child is really struggling, emphasize that it’s not a big deal and that there is no rush. Be patient.
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