Each of us would likely be met with little challenge to get our children outside with beaches, volcanoes, and rainforests at our doorstep. We may be more troubled to encourage our children to do something unfamiliar. If so, here are a couple of tips you can try to lessen the fear, empower the hesitant, and embolden the taker in safe risk.
Acknowledge the anxiety.
Children generally operate in two modes, with logic or with emotion. When acting and thinking logically, approaching things with reason will often suffice. However, when children function in an emotional state and suggest for example, that you won’t come home if you leave, it’s important that you give their fear words. Saying something like, “I can see that you are upset. Can you tell me why you are upset about X, Y, or Z?”, can be really helpful in encouraging them to process their concern. For older children, you can take it a step further by speaking directly to their emotional state. By acknowledging the anxiety, you can begin to help your children practice emotional regulation.
Talk through the activity.
Being unsure about something can intensify fear. Therefore, it’s important to talk about what the activity entails. Allow your children to ask questions and to learn about the finer details as well as the bigger picture. If your children are hesitant about heading off to nature camp, talk them through what you know, the things they’ll enjoy doing, and when you’ll be back to pick them up. Being transparent about what your children are in for is always a good idea and can help reduce fear of the unknown.
Envision the outcome.
Lastly, help your children envision a positive outcome. You can choose to do so by engaging in a mindfulness exercise where you support them in breathing, relaxing, and seeing themselves enjoying the new experiences ahead. Your children can practice this mindfulness exercise themselves once you depart. Done easily and most anywhere, they can practice self-care while imagining the pride they’ll feel when taking one simple risk and finding success in it.
Use these three tips the next time your children express anxiety and a fear of taking risks. With summer approaching, the pandemic easing, and the familiarity of home-bound routines likely becoming less, they just might be what you need to ensure yourself and your children valuable experiences of growth and healthy development.
Eric Dustman is the head of school of Montessori of Maui. If you’d like to learn more, visit momi.org.