Monday, November 12, 2007

What to do when your child is scared

We went to visit some relatives this weekend.
Surprisingly enough, the trip was pretty relaxing (despite going through security with 2 children, 2 car seats, a stroller, a lap top, baby food, and assorted other fun things)!

We encountered one hitch - it was expected, but we are still unsure of how to deal with it --
Yalda is "scared" of one of the relatives. He is older, and sometimes uses a wheelchair. He is somewhat grumpy, and he looks like he's been through the wringer (which he has been).

We want Yalda to interact with him- its very important to us, but she runs into our arms whenever he enters the room. Sometimes she cries from looking at him.

Interestingly enough, though he is not usually good at controlling himself -- he often yells when he is in pain, we could tell that he was trying very hard this weekend to control the yelling. In fact, he had no outbursts in front of Yalda- and for that I am incredibly grateful.

We tried a number of different things to try to get Yalda to interact with him- extra kisses and hugs, including him in a tea party, showing him her artwork, all to no avail. She refused to be in pictures with him, even if she was in one of our laps. OY! We want pictures for the future- but certainly not ones in which Yalda is leaning as far away from this relative as she can. And we didn't want to force her closer - because he seems to know that she is frightened of him.

We feel truly blessed that this relative is still in our lives, and we want Yalda to get to know him while she can. How do you teach a child to be comfortable in a situation that clearly is uncomfortable? How do you convince a 2 1/2 year old that the man in the chair really isn't that bad?

Taking it one step further, how do you instill the values that just because someone looks different- whether because of a disability, or age, or demeanor, that they are still people that we should welcome into our lives?


mother in israel said...

You can't force it. She will gradually get used to him. She doesn't have any prejudices against wheelchairs or old people, he just seems strange to her.

When my oldest son was three, he was petrified of large noises. There were two people that caused him to scream whenever he saw them: A teenager whom he had hear play the trumpet, and a neighbor who blew the shofar. The neighbor was the gentlest, most friendly man; fortunately he took it well that this child would burst into tears at his appearance. He got over it. He also refused to enter strange elevators.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if she has ever seen him sitting on a sofa or dining room chair. Sometimes a wheelchair is frightening to small children. I grew up with an aunt who relied on the use of a wheelchair.
Until they become used to seeing it or realize it will not hurt them, I would suggest not forcing her. Maybe if he is on the sofa, he will be more approachable to your child. Also, if your child is not around this relative often, it makes it difficult for her to know that he is not scary.