Junior Zap is at a friend’s birthday party. There is a clown, a jumping castle and lots of children having a ton of fun. Unfortunately, Junior Zap who is brave in so many ways, is afraid of the clown. The clown is not frightening the other children who are delighted to have a real clown at their party. But Junior is terrified. He tries to hide behind Dad Zap who gently eases Junior out in front of the clown. The clown tries to make gentle contact with Junior, but he is still scared. When Dad gets down to Junior’s level to console him, he sees why the clown might appear frightening. But, even when he picks Junior up to give him the comfort of being held by “big strong Dad”, Junior still wants nothing to do with the clown. Thankfully, the clown has the good sense to depart and Junior points to the jumping castle, something that he obviously wants to do. So, Dad gladly takes Junior Zap over to have some fun.
Children are highly motivated to learn to adapt to new situations, but parents need to respect their children’s feelings when they are overwhelmed.
Some children are afraid of most new situations. None of the Zap children are like this, but they undoubtedly have friends who are. Children with a tendency to be shy and easily scared, need parents who will allow them to approach new situations with small steps. Often parents need to prepare these children in advance of each new situation.
Even otherwise bold and brave children can draw the emotional line with particular situations. Dad Zap was surprised because it was so out of character for Junior to be frightened. But Dad did not scold Junior or push him beyond his level of tolerance. He gently tried to ease Junior’s fears and when that did not work, he simply followed Junior’s lead and found another activity for the youngster to enjoy.
Regardless of whether it is your child’s nature to be easily scared, or a situation arises that frightens your otherwise outgoing child, parents need to respect their child’s strong emotional reactions. Sometimes this means parents need the confidence to listen and simultaneously resist pressure from others to push their child beyond what he is capable of handling emotionally. Usually, respecting your child’s strong emotions means giving him more time to acquire experience and confidence in himself. Occasionally it means intentionally building more frequent, smaller social learning experiences into his repertoire, to help your child develop the additional confidence he needs.