Change can be very difficult for children. Facing new situations means a new set of unknowns and therefore a new set of fears. Your job as a caregiver is talk with your children and allow them to find the courage to face their fears. Be respectful and empathic of your child’s experience while also allowing them to maintain self-control and independence. Here are some tips on helping your children handle new experiences.

• Provide a calm and consistent home environment for your child—a place where they can “check in” and feel safe. Children find security in reliability, especially from caregivers.

• Be regular and dependable in spending time with your children. Set up a scheduled time during the week to sit down and talk—a Talkaboutit. Encourage dialogue about whatever they might be thinking and feeling.

• Keep children aware of upcoming changes in advance. Talk to them about what they can expect from these changes. Sharing pictures or visiting websites with information about new experiences or situations can ease fears of the unknown.

• Respect your children’s questions about new experiences. Answer them with honest, short and simple responses.

• Be empathic. Understand from a child’s perspective how scary it can be to enter into a new situation.

• Be aware what your children fear. This will help you to be empathic when a fearful situation for your child arises.

• Get to know YOUR fears and model being brave for your children.

• Provide positive encouragement, not punishment, for children who are struggling with changes and new experiences.

• Never use phrases such as “don’t be afraid” or “big kids aren’t afraid.” This only shames a child and makes them feel worse. Instead, use phrases such as “when I was young I was afraid of new things too.”

• Don’t rush a child to get over their fears. Sometimes children need “transitional objects”. These are the blankets and toys that children often cling to for security. Talk about the meaning of these objects and respect them. Allow children a sense of self-control by encouraging them to think about giving up these objects when THEY are ready.

• Keep your child safe. Be aware and knowledgeable about any new situation that your child enters into.

• Do not indulge a child’s fears. Help to foster independence in your children by allowing them to attempt new things on their own.
Don’t smother yet don’t ignore!

Author's Bio: 

Matt Casper, M.A. MFT; Matt is a licensed Psychotherapist with a private practice in Los Angeles, California. He graduated cum laude from Duke University where he studied personality psychology, comparative religion and film. He received his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the California Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology and Psychoanalysis and has worked with a diverse population including individual adults, teens and children as well as with groups and couples. Matt has been involved with the Maple Counseling Center, a non-profit counseling clinic, as well as with the Julia-Ann Singer Therapeutic School where he worked with children who fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum, and has served as a supervisor for teenagers at TEEN LINE, a hotline and website that provides teen-to-teen outreach for teenagers facing emotional challenges. Matt is also the author of a series of 12 books in the "Emotes!" series which aims to help children identify, express and manage their emotions.