Embarrassment can make your child feel deeply upset. However, to make it a valuable learning experience, teach your child how to cope with occasions that leave them feeling self-conscious or awkward.
By Ashwin Lobo
Almost every one of us has experienced feelings of embarrassment at some time or the other. While it can make some of us feel dejected and sad, others brush it off and carry on with life. However, it is a difficult emotion to cope with, especially for children. It can lower their self-esteem and dent their confidence. As parents, we need to teach our children how to effectively deal with it. But, to do so, it is also necessary for us to understand what embarrassment really is.
As humans, we set rules of conduct and act according to them. But, when we fail to act according to set norms and draw the attention of others, it makes us feel awkward and raises the concern of being adversely evaluated. This feeling is called embarrassment.
Children become self-conscious or feel awkward in certain situations, by the time they are into toddlerhood. Feelings and signs of embarrassment in children can manifest as blushing, perspiration or stammering.
When we feel embarrassed, we send out a message that we regret our action and will try our best to not repeat it. So, while the feeling of embarrassment can make a child feel unpleasant or uneasy, if handled properly, it can also lead to positive outcomes by motivating a child to:
Children need help in dealing with embarrassing moments. Helping your child cope effectively with such situations can raise her self-confidence and self-esteem. It can also give her the courage to be open to new experiences.
So, it is important to guide your child on how to overcome and deal with feelings of embarrassment. Here are a few tips to help you:
1. Be a good role model: Your child learns almost everything by observing you, including how to deal with difficult situations and emotions. So, whenever you land yourself in an embarrassing situation, be honest about whatever you are experiencing.
2. Don't tease: When your child makes a mistake or is involved in an embarrassing incident, do not poke fun at him. Ridiculing your child can upset him further and make him even more self-conscious.
3. Validate her feelings: When your child shares an embarrassing moment with you, validate her feelings of hurt. A warm hug or just saying something like, "I do understand how you must be feeling," can make her feel good and give her the strength to move on.
4. Recount your own embarrassing experience: When your little one is embarrassed about something, he can feel as though he is the only one who can be so silly. To dispel this feeling, tell your child about some of your own embarrassing moments. This will make him realise that every individual can land in an awkward situation or make mistakes. He will understand that he isn't the only one who acts silly at times, and that we all need to get past such situations.
Do not over-react by saying things like, 'how could you do something so stupid!', 'how shameful, hope no one heard or saw you'. This way, we will only add to their sense of embarrassment. Instead say something like, 'Hey, we all have been where you are. We all do embarrassing things'. By using the 'principle of universalisation' as a coping mechanism, we assure a child that everyone makes mistakes. It's actually fine! — *Aparna Balasundaram
5. Develop self-confidence: Being embarrassed invokes feelings of fear, criticism, shame and failure. It can also prevent your child from trying out new things or stepping out of her comfort zone. So, develop your child's self-confidence to help her overcome setbacks, move forward and accept embarrassment as a normal emotion.
6. Teach visualisation techniques: "Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory," said the great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. Ask your child to visualise an embarrassing situation and also tell you how he will face it. If he is unable to do so, you can come up with hypothetical embarrassing situations and ask your child what he would do if he were caught up in one. This exercise will prepare your child to cope with his feelings when dealing with an awkward situation.
As parents, we always feel the need to protect our children from uncomfortable experiences and emotions. But, these can teach our children some very important life lessons and, help them grow up into confident, self-assured individuals.
*Aparna Balasundaram is the co-founder of life skills expert that enables parents to raise happy, confident and successful children. www.lifeskillsexpert.com
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