Tips on How to Raise a Child Who Isn't Afraid of New Things
As infants, toddlers, and young children grow, they naturally become more cautious of new experiences and less likely to try something that might be risky. That's normal; after all, you don't want your child falling off a stool or putting their finger in an electrical outlet. But there are some downsides to this natural inclination toward the familiar. Children who are afraid of trying new things or encountering unfamiliar people or places may struggle in school and have fewer opportunities later in life. If you want to raise a child who isn’t afraid of new things, keep reading for tips on how to help your child get past their current fears and thrive as they grow older.
Talk about the things that scare your child
Start by having a conversation with your child about their fears. Find out what they’re scared of, and then try to talk them through their feelings. If your child is afraid of dogs, for example, you could say something like, “I know you’re scared of dogs. Do you want to know why?” If your child says yes, then you can explain, “Dogs are scared of people, too, so they bite to protect themselves. Do you want to know why you’re scared of them?” Try to talk your child through their feelings, and explain to them why they feel the way they do.
Help your child feel in control
Let your child pick their own activities and explore new things on their own terms. If your child wants to try playing the violin, for example, let them choose when to practice and on what instrument. If your child wants to learn how to skateboard, help them find a safe space where they can try it out without the risk of injury. If your child wants to try rock climbing, let them do it with an instructor. Let your child feel like they’re in control of the situation and of their own actions. Your child might feel less scared if they can take charge of the situation.
Help your child predict what will happen next
If your child is scared of taking a test at school, sit down with them before the big day and walk them through everything that will happen next. You could say something like, “When we get to school, the teacher will give the room number where we’re supposed to go. Then, the bell will ring, and you’ll have five minutes to get to class. You’ll open the door and take one step inside, and the teacher will tell you to sit down.” By helping your child predict what will happen in the future, you can help ease their fears.
Try virtual reality for exposure therapy
If your child is afraid of dogs, try giving them a virtual reality headset that shows them a realistic dog. Help them practice interacting with the dog until they feel comfortable with the situation. You can also try virtual reality for a variety of other fears, including heights and public speaking. Virtual reality can help your child overcome their fears by giving them a safe way to practice.
Try traditional exposure therapy
If your child is afraid of dogs, try taking them to a park where dogs are playing. Let your child watch the dogs and observe how they react to one another and their surroundings. You can also try taking your child to an animal shelter and letting them interact with the animals there. Let your child get hands-on experience with the things that scare them so that they can start to feel more comfortable.
Help your child build their own courage
Help your child understand that courage isn’t a fixed trait; it’s a skill that anyone can learn and improve upon. You can say something like, “You have all the tools you need to be courageous. You just have to practice.” If your child struggles with fear, encourage them to keep trying new things even when they’re scared. Help your child understand that even though they might be afraid, they can still do the things they want to do.
Raising a child who isn’t afraid of new things can be challenging, but it’s ultimately worth it. Your child will have more opportunities in life, and they’ll be more likely to make friends. If your child is afraid of new things, remember that it’s a normal part of development. Help your child understand their fears, and let them practice working through them. Your child will thank you for it when they’re older.