How many of us truly know how to have fun? Are we able simply to enjoy what is around us, or does fear hold us back?
This baby elephant revels in his first experience with the sea. Being a non-human animal, he’s able to express his delight in the waves and water.
Fear can start early in a child’s life, holding him back from appreciating the beauty and, yes, fun, of life. Some of this fear response, in the form of shyness or uncertainty, is built into each individual’s personality; but some comes from watching the world around us and worrying how we fit in.
While it’s impossible to banish the fear response completely (and of course we don’t want to do that, since fear helps us keep ourselves safe in many situations), we can help our children learn to manage and overcome the “unhealthy” reactions we have.
Watch your child; for instance, is she hesitant on the playground, afraid to approach kids she doesn’t know, even when they are welcoming? Try talking and role-playing with her to prepare her for meeting new people. If that isn’t enough, go with her to introduce her to the new child (and child’s caregiver, if appropriate). Demonstrate to her how to meet new people, and praise her when she makes overtures.
When I was a young teen, my mother wanted me to call the library and ask a question. I was terrified – I couldn’t do it! She yelled at me that it was no big deal, I was 13, old enough to be able to do something simple on my own.
Yet, I wasn’t. I was an exceptionally shy child (I had trouble talking to friends, much less strangers), and I had no idea what to do on the phone. Thinking back, if my mother had modeled for me, taken me through the conversation and helped me think of what to say, I likely would have been able to make the call. I still would have been terrified – but I would have had a framework and been able to do it, and in doing so, been more confident in my ability to make a similar call in the future.
This is how we grow, in self-confidence and in our abilities: one step at a time, learning new skills and building on them. And in each step, we must face the fear of the unknown, or our own limitations, real or self-imposed.