What was Your Childhood Kryptonite?
As a child, I was incredibly shy. I often hid behind my mom’s legs when I was introduced to new people. I refused to try new foods. I didn’t try new things because they seemed scary. I maintained a very small comfort zone. When our family would go to an amusement park, I stuck with the kiddie rides. When we went to our friends’ cabin up north, I stayed back at the cabin with the moms rather than skiing with all of the kids. We had a cottage on a lake and I never even tried water skiing.
I missed out on a lot.
My parents did what all parents do: they parented me the best way they knew how. I remember my mom giving me lots of hugs and defending me from my brother’s mean teasing about me being a wimp. I don’t remember either of my parents pushing the issue much, but maybe they did. I can’t help but wonder if things might have been different if they had pushed me more.
The struggle is real. Parenting your child through something you struggled with as a kid can really stretch your parenting skills. It can also bring back some not-so-happy childhood memories. So what do you do when faced with this type of situation?
On the positive side, you have first hand experience dealing with this specific challenge. You (hopefully) overcame whatever obstacles you faced and your kiddo will appreciate knowing that when you say, “I understand how you’re feeling,” you actually do.
There are also some potential drawbacks. Maybe you were not able to overcome this issue. Maybe this is something you have continued to struggle with as an adult. Also, your child is NOT you which means they are not necessarily experiencing things in the same way you did. It can be difficult to have a neutral perspective on things when you have your own past experience.
Here are some suggestions that might help if you are facing a similar situation with your kiddo.
1. Call for Backup to Help Your Kid
As much as we want to be everything for everybody, we can’t. So set aside your parent ego and think about what is best for your child.
When my kids were hesitant to try new things, my positive, outgoing, sensitive husband was the man for the job. He is great at listening to my kids, staying calm, and giving them gentle encouragement. I am happy to report that both of my kids (ages 10 and 13) are now very willing to try new things. My super cautious son recently spent an entire day riding roller coasters at Michigan’s Adventure. He even went on the Rip Cord! I would have never predicted that for him based on his personality in his early years. And anyone who knows my daughter knows that she is a ball of energy and enthusiasm for everything in life.
Think about the people in your child’s life who may be able to help them through their challenge. This could be another parent, step-parent, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, teacher, coach, youth group leader, neighbor, older cousin. It can’t always be you and that’s OK!
2. Be Resourceful
Children’s books can be a great resource when addressing sensitive issues with your kids. You can find books on topics ranging from shyness, disliking sports, allergies, autism, making friends, learning disabilities, and so much more. Often kids find it easier to talk about problems when they can see other characters dealing with similar things. Kent District Library is a great resource for finding these types of books.
Kids’ shows and movies also address a lot of different issues in a non-threatening way. Sesame Street has tackled issues of cancer, death, divorce, autism, hunger, and parents in the military. Several Disney movies teach great life lessons such as Lilo and Stitch (unique family arrangement), Lion King (facing your fears), Frozen (sharing your feelings), Brave (it’s OK for girls to like activities that are typically meant for boys), and Cinderella (always be kind).
3. Use Your Child’s Preferred Mode of Communication
Some kids can sit and talk about their feelings. But for many kids (especially boys), this can be tough. Try doing an activity while you talk or encourage your kids to write or draw their feelings.
Hopefully these suggestions will give you some guidance in helping your child work through challenges that you faced in your childhood!