Simple learning techniques to help kids overcome inhibitions and apprehensions - Hindustan Times

Simple learning techniques to help children overcome inhibitions and apprehensions

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Aug 07, 2023 08:40 PM IST

Here are a few ways to help children deal with everyday situations, overcome inhibitions and apprehensions, solve problems and make the right decisions.

Walt Disney once said, “I have long felt that the way to keep children out of trouble is to keep them interested in things. Lecturing children is no answer to delinquency. Preaching won't keep youngsters out of trouble but keeping their minds occupied will,” but how wonderful it would be, if we could see how a child's brain functioned. According to experts, a child's brain develops fast from birth to age five, affecting all aspects of a child's development, from motor skills to language, cognitive and social-emotional development.

Simple learning techniques to help children overcome inhibitions and apprehensions (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)
Simple learning techniques to help children overcome inhibitions and apprehensions (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

Research has shown that we can 'train the brain' effectively right from a young age. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Rachna Narwekar, Early Years Educator, Curriculum Expert and Coach for LD, shared, “We all want a bright future for our children. We want them to be successful at whatever they choose, both in their personal and professional life. But how do we ensure that happens? The answer lies in the process. How we bring our children up also depends on our mindset.”

She suggested a few ways to help children deal with everyday situations, problem solve and make the right decisions -

  • Be there for them emotionally. Let them know that you are there for them no matter what and, together with you, your child can overcome their fears and apprehensions. Reading relevant books and listening to songs help them feel safe and loved.
  • Give them responsibility. Get them to do chores around the house right from an early age. Putting toys back as toddlers, setting the dinner table and making their bed as they get older teaches children to be responsible for their work. These also help build their self-esteem and confidence.
  • Set a routine for the day. Having a structure for the day helps build your child's confidence. They feel secure when they know what to expect in the day and which activities follow next. Get them to draw or write the activities for the day on a daily chart or in a diary. They feel a sense of accomplishment when they strike off the tasks at the end of the day.
  • Encourage their ideas, however crazy you may think they are. Sometimes we don't encourage what our children want to do because we don't believe it is productive. We must let children pursue what they like. When they like it, chances are they are also good at it!
  • Support the activities they enjoy. If they want to sell lemonade, help them set up shop. Provide opportunities for them to pursue their initiatives. Talking to neighbours, selling their products or raising funds, and collecting food or clothes for charity helps them gain confidence and shed any inhibitions they may have.
  • Give them ample opportunities to showcase what activities they are good at doing. Encourage the occasional show at home or the play they want to enact. Making a movie or play tickets for their performance helps children hone their creativity and social skills.
  • Introduce them to music and drama to help them open up in front of others and set their inhibitions free. Encourage short performances with neighbours and friends when your child is ready to perform and share his/her talent. Don't force them to do so if they aren't ready but a gentle nudge always helps. Praise and encouragement go a long way to helping them become confident individuals.

Priyanka Varma, Psychologist at Holy Family Hospital And Medical Research Centre Bandra in Mumbai, said, “It's important to note that having inhibitions is a natural part of human behavior, and not all inhibitions are negative. Inhibitions can serve as protective mechanisms that help individuals navigate social situations and maintain appropriate boundaries. However, excessive or debilitating inhibitions can hinder a child's personal growth, self-expression, social interaction, problem solving abilities, autonomy and ability to engage with others. Helping children overcome inhibitions can be a gradual and supportive process.”

She advised some strategies you can use to assist children in overcoming their inhibitions -

1. Create a Safe and Non-Judgmental Environment: Children need to feel safe and accepted to overcome inhibitions. Foster an environment where they feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of criticism or ridicule.

2. Build Trust and Establish a Relationship: Develop a strong bond with the child based on trust and respect. This will help them feel more comfortable opening up and taking risks.

3. Encourage Self-Expression: Provide opportunities for the child to express themselves through various activities like art, music, drama, or writing. Encouraging creativity helps children explore their thoughts and emotions in a non-threatening way.

4. Set Realistic Expectations: Understand each child's unique abilities and set realistic expectations. Avoid comparing them to others and focus on their personal growth and progress. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, to boost their confidence.

5. Gradually Introduce New Experiences: Introduce new experiences and challenges gradually, allowing the child to acclimate and adjust at their own pace. Slowly expanding their comfort zone helps them build confidence in unfamiliar situations.

6. Provide Positive Reinforcement: Recognise and praise the child's efforts, highlighting their strengths and areas of improvement. Positive reinforcement helps build self-esteem and encourages them to push beyond their inhibitions.

7. Teach Problem-Solving Skills: Help children develop problem-solving skills to tackle challenges and overcome obstacles. Teach them strategies to break down problems into smaller, manageable steps and support them in finding solutions.

8. Foster Peer Interaction: Encourage children to interact with their peers, promoting socialization and communication skills. Group activities and collaborative projects provide opportunities for them to practice overcoming inhibitions in a supportive environment.

9. Be a Role Model: Demonstrate confidence and openness yourself, serving as a positive role model for the child. Show them that it's okay to make mistakes and learn from them, reinforcing the idea that inhibitions can be overcome.

10. Seek Professional Help if Needed: If a child's inhibitions significantly impact their daily functioning or well-being, consider seeking guidance from a professional, such as a child psychologist or therapist, who can provide specialized support and interventions.

The mental health expert recommended some activities that parents can use to help children overcome inhibitions -

1. Role-Playing: Engage in role-playing scenarios where the child can practice social interactions, assertiveness, and expressing themselves in a safe and controlled environment. This can include scenarios like ordering food at a pretend restaurant or acting out a challenging conversation with a friend. Role-playing interventions are effective in reducing social anxiety and improving assertiveness in children.

2. Art Therapy: Encourage the child to engage in various art forms like drawing, painting, or sculpting. Art therapy provides a non-verbal outlet for self-expression and can help children explore and communicate their emotions and thoughts. Art therapy interventions significantly reduced anxiety and enhanced self-esteem in children.

3. Group Activities: Organise group activities such as team sports, drama clubs, or music classes that require collaboration and interaction with peers. These activities provide opportunities for children to build social skills, develop self-confidence and overcome inhibitions in a supportive group setting. Participation in group activities positively impacted social skills, self-esteem, and reduced social anxiety in children.

4. Public Speaking Exercises: Encourage the child to practice public speaking by delivering short speeches or presentations in front of family members or a small group. Start with familiar topics and gradually increase the complexity of the content to help them build confidence in expressing themselves. Regular practice of public speaking improved communication skills, reduced public speaking anxiety and enhanced self-confidence in children.

5. Mindfulness and Breathing Exercises: Teach the child mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises to help them manage stress and anxiety. These practices can help children become more self-aware and develop a sense of calmness, allowing them to overcome inhibitions in various situations. Mindfulness based interventions significantly reduced anxiety and improved self-regulation skills in children.

Priyanka Varma insisted, “Activities should be tailored to the child's age, interests and abilities. Each child is unique, and the process of overcoming inhibitions may vary. Patience, understanding and consistent support are key to helping children develop the confidence to overcome their inhibitions. While it's important to support children in overcoming inhibitions, it's equally vital to respect their boundaries and ensure they feel safe and secure throughout the process. Each child is unique, and the journey of overcoming inhibitions should be approached with patience, understanding, and appropriate guidance.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Ishita Pateria, Counselling Psychologist and Psychotherapist, said, “Encouraging open and healthy communication is crucial when helping a child overcome their inhibitions or apprehensions. First of all, it is extremely important that we don’t dismiss what they are feeling. Oftentimes they may not communicate their apprehensions as they fear dismissal such as, “Don’t worry! It’s nothing – come on!” As a result, their behaviour may result in an attention-seeking tantrum. It is essential to acknowledge what they are feeling as whatever said and done their feelings are real to them. For example, “I understand this is upsetting but let us try…”. We then need to comfort them before going ahead and helping them overcome their inhibitions. This may include holding their hand, giving them a hug or just sitting and hearing them out.”

She added, “It is imperative that we acknowledge their effort rather than simply saying, “Not bad! Next time we will do better.” Their current effort needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. It is crucial we use positive reinforcers while encouraging them to take one step forward such as, “I know that was difficult for you but you did so well!” Further, it is essential that we involve the child in the decision-making process and help them decide what their goal is. Letting the child feel that they are in control, not only instills confidence but also independence and autonomy. For example, “I understand you are scared to go play in the park alone with all those children. How would you like to go so that you feel better – I can come with you, we can sit on the bench together or you can play in the smaller play area – your choice!”. Once the initial goal is decided and met, we can go back to the drawing board and set higher realistic goals with them. Lastly, rather than simply paying attention on the outcome, it is key we pay attention, encourage and support the entire process.”

Ishita Pateria concluded, “Having said that, parents are also human beings who may react or say something to upset the child sometimes. It is extremely important that if we end up saying something dismissive, negative or harsh we apologize and try to ensure that we don’t repeat the same behaviour. If repeated, it is essential we apologise each time and help them see that we are also a work in progress. When a child sees their parents apologising, they will further be far more open to making mistakes, apologising and learning from it themselves.”

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