Parents of young children are probably familiar with their child’s hesitation to try something new. Whether it’s a new food, talking to a new person, or trying a new way of doing something, children can resist without you understanding why. However, as an adult you know that new experiences not only lead to a richer life, but they also teach valuable skills.
Here are some ways you can encourage your child to try new things.
Discuss the issue with your child
Sometimes your child might seem to refuse something with seemingly no reason why. However, through conversation, you might be able to uncover why they’re hesitant. In these situations, keep the conversation calm and uncritical, and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Avoid comparison or inadvertently causing guilt. You may be able to offer suggestions for overcoming their fear or hesitation, but the most important thing is that your child feels heard and understood.
Make a plan with your child
Helping your child come up with a plan for the new experience gives them a sense of control, which can help them feel more confident about trying something new. Once you and your child have identified the reason for not wanting to try the new thing, you can guide them in coming up with a plan. For example, if your child is reluctant to take swimming lessons, you can figure out some small steps that they can do to help them be more comfortable with the idea. They can practice getting their face wet in the bath, or they can get used to being in the water by splashing in the shallow end of a pool with you.
Help to develop their confidence and security
Sometimes, a child doesn’t want to try something new because they’re anxious about failing, or they worry about what people will think if they can’t do it. Whether you’re talking about the specific situation they’re hesitant about or not, ensure that your child knows that you’re always there to love and support them no matter what. Notice and acknowledge when your child does something challenging, and praise the effort, no matter the outcome.
Let your child see you trying new things
If your child sees you trying something new, they’ll feel encouraged to do the same. Whether it’s trying a new food or saying hi to a neighbor, try to model curiosity and a willingness to try new things. For this reason, it can also be helpful for your child if you “fail.” For example, if you try a new food and dislike it, rather than making a face and pushing your plate away, you can be honest and say you didn’t like it very much, but you’re glad you tried it. This way, your child can see that the experience and what you learn is valuable, and they may be more willing to take a risk on a new thing.
Above all, when it comes to encouraging your child to try new things, be patient, compassionate, and don’t force them before they’re ready. With these tips, your child can develop confidence and an open mind, and they may be more likely to try something new.