HANDLING HOW TO’S

 In many aspects of our lives, we’re looking for answers from gurus, consultants, teachers, mentors and even self-help books.

‘How to talk to your teenager’

‘How to help your child cope with exams and stress’

‘How to increase the level of engagement of employees’

‘How to get 6-pack abs in 3 months’

Sounds familiar? Well, I’m now going through a particular ‘How to’ phase as well. It’s how to help my preschooler overcome her fears and anxiety, and manage her emotions. Last year, for her school concert performance, her teachers put her at the front center of her class because she was a good dancer and so she could also lead the class in the dance steps. She got so stressed because of it that she didn’t want to go to school during that period. On another occasion, she got stung by a wasp-like insect and for months she would freak out at the sight of any insect.

Over the long weekend, for the very first time in our lives, we got stopped by a traffic police because we had squeezed in a few additional friends in the car. As my husband stepped out to explain our situation, my daughter got really frightened and asked if he was going to put us in jail. You could see that she was really worried and afraid. I hope she doesn’t develop a fear of the police. On the other hand, my son was trying to get the policeman’s attention by making funny faces at him and shouting through the glass window, “I surrender! I surrender!”

I’ve been learning a lot from the resources and workshops from Focus on the Family Singapore; and so it’s great that I can apply the learning immediately. When addressing fears and emotions, what not to say is “You have to be brave.” “There’s nothing to be scared of.” (This is what the Hubs says to me about lizards and I can testify that it does not help). “It’s because you watched that TV show. I told you not to watch it.” Such words do not help comfort the child nor help her overcome the fear.

Instead, we should:

  1. Let her know it’s ok to be afraid
  2. Help her understand being afraid is temporary
  3. Let her know it’s ok to talk about her fear and help her to verbalize her fear and emotions with words
  4. Let her know it is also normal not to be afraid.
  5. Help her learn a new response or behavior to replace her fear response. The use of imagination is one way.

My friend in the car demonstrated these tips very well. She explained that policemen were there to keep us safe and look out for us. She then helped my daughter observe and interpret the situation in a humorous way by asking the following questions to explain that the policeman was not angry.

“Is his face turning red?” “No”

“Is steam coming out from his ears?” “No”

“Is his helmet flying off from his head?” “No”

With each question, it helped her read the situation and in place of fear, she even managed a smile and giggle.

PS: For more self-help books, don’t miss the FOTFS Christmas 20% Storewide Book Sale which happens only once a year! Free Delivery. Log onto www.family.org.sg for more details.

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