5 Tips to Boost Courage and Increase Participation from Children
Today I watched my six year old daughter point out towards the horizon as we steered our kayak into the Caribbean Sea. For some that may not seem like a big deal, but for my Delilah that level of courageousness meant a lot.
Delilah was a colicky baby who screamed, and I do mean screamed, until six months of age. After that a new phase was born- the “too many people, too scary,” phase where she frequently mimicked super glue… clinging to myself or my husband in any social or new situation.
But as age three approached my husband and I grew more and more concerned. We began to wonder if this little girl would ever grow into a person who could confidently engage in the world?
Would the timidity ever pass?
Just as importantly, would we (her parents) ever be able to resume our favorite activities of doing and seeing new things with our child alongside?
We REALLY had our doubts.
And now, years later, here she was- bravely setting sail into the Maya Riviera, and looking absolutely thrilled about it!
Trying new things can not only be hard for kids, but for adults too.
It requires us to stretch out of our ‘comfort box’ and open ourselves to a potentially vulnerable situation. It may even challenge a belief that we hold or idea that we have locked in our minds (just think of the three year old who can sell you every reason that they hate broccoli even though they’ve never even tasted it!).
But the personal benefits of engaging with the new and different can be so richly rewarding.
We may discover something about ourselves that we never knew, or feel the exhilaration of doing something that we thought we couldn’t.
I love to witness these victories for my children, and it continuously reminds me to stay open and stretch myself. Ironically, on the evening of writing this I was offered roasted grasshoppers served in my guacamole. I had to laugh to myself because there was no backing out of this one!
(Yep, those red things you are looking at in my guacamole are indeed grasshoppers, roasted in chili and lime.)
I actually really liked them!
When traveling as a family there is nearly always some degree of varying agendas-
where and when to eat,
when to play and when to rest,
and what activities to do.
I can admit to my excitement as my kids grow older and the potential for more adventurous activities increases, like in this instance ocean kayaking (you GO DELILAH!)
Here are guidelines for what I have seen work to boost courage and increase participation from children. These tips will support adventurous family travel and lifestyle.
1. Emphasize security
It’s amazing how a few simple words spoken calmly can make all the difference.
“You are safe. ”
“Mommy is here. ”
“I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
This kind of gentle reminder can stoke a child’s confidence and settle their nerves from the get-go. We all like to know that we are safe. Giving reassurance and emphasizing security sets children up for success!
2. Add-on gradually
My children are always open to try something new and different if it is something that they perceive as small. This makes it seem less threatening.
Build up to bigger experiences by adding on gradually. For instance, if your goal is to swim with dolphins as a family, start by fist visiting a marine center where they can watch and learn about the animals. Try a group swim alone. Work up to your goal at an incremental pace.
If you’d like to experience a meal out for exotic ethnic cuisine your kids have never had before, try making one of the more basic dishes at home first. Then they have a meal under their belt and know there will be at least one option on the menu that they will be comfortable with.
As your childs confidence develops who knows what else they’ll be open to try. Prevent any feeling of overwhelm for your kid by using a slow, gradual approach.
3. Follow the Leader
Sometimes children will surprise you with what they will try and do all on their own.
Be sure to show genuine interest when you find them pushing their own limits.
You can do this by asking questions like,
“What made you think to do that?”
“That looks fun. Can I join in?”
My guess is they will be enthusiast to tell you ALL about it and allow you to share in their moment.
Make a BIG DEAL out of each and every victory. Point them out to your child so that they too can acknowledge what they have accomplished, and how truly amazing they are.
“You must be SO proud of yourself!!!”
I absolutely love to see my kids faces shine and sparkle when they stop, think about it, and then realize that yes! They really are!
5. Stay Flexible
There is a time and place for everything. As a parent you will often get to decide when the right time is to integrate new experiences. If you are met with strong resistance from your child, weigh your options. Is it really worth the potential trauma of forcing the situation if all they may need is a little more time?
Staying flexible not only eases every situation for children, but it also minimizes frustration for us parents if things maybe dont go exactly how we envisioned on the first try.
Adventurous travel and lifestyle with children is possible and can be so much fun!
Through our collective shared experiences we have the opportunity to develop our own flow with our children, and as a family.
In the meantime, here is a gentle reminder to appreciate and cherish the moment for whatever it is and however it plays out. These are precious times we are sure to look back on forever. ❤️
Have any other tricks that have worked for you and your family when traveling with kids? Do Tell!