New experiences: A parent's guide to helping children cope with new experiences.
New experiences can be difficult for young children (and let’s face it, adults as well). There are many emotions that can be associated with new experiences, such as: excitement, fear, worry, frustration, and even anger. Since young children are already struggling with emerging emotions that they don’t have names for, they communicate their feelings through behaviors.
As parents, it is up to us to help prepare kids for the unexpected. Telling them ahead of time about what they can expect, helps them feel more confident about the new experience. Use simple language when explaining, and ask them if they have any questions. If you are unsure of the answer, that’s ok, let them know that you will find out the answer together. It is also important to check in with them after the experience. Ask them how they felt about the experience, what they liked/didn’t like, how they can help make the next time better, etc. When you take a little bit of time to talk with your child and process the experience, you’re helping them learn to trust and be more willing to try new things.
It’s easy for young children (and yet again, us as adults) to want to quit when an experience is scary, they don’t understand something, or they feel like they can’t do something. The trick here is to encourage them more for the attempts, rather than the success. Life takes practice (parenting isn’t easy or natural, right? We definitely have to practice to get better), but if we give up, it reinforces our negative behaviors because initially it feels like a relief. This can be very defeating however, and actually serves to decrease our own confidence. Instead, encouraging a child by saying things like “that was a great try!” and “Don’t quit, because practice makes better!” can help a child understand that the more we work on something, the better we become!