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How Play can help Kids Overcome Fears.

Logic rarely helps with kid’s fears and we can feel like banging our heads against a wall! Time to try a different approach.

My oldest son is outgoing, strong-willed, and even though he loves taking to adults, until recently, he refused to order his own food in any restaurant or cafe. He turned 9 this summer and it felt time to help him to learn that he can order for himself. I started out by encouraging him. I said, “Do you want to tell the waitress your food order?” He said, “No, you do it.” I said, “Go on, you can do it!” but he wouldn’t. I even tried bribing him with a reward, but he still refused to do it. A few days later, when we were at home relaxing together I decided to playfully explore his fear of ordering food. I said to him, “If we were in a restaurant and Voldemort was the waiter, would you order your food?” He said, “No way!” I said, “Yeah that would be scary.” “What about if the waiter was his best friend?” He laughed and said, “Yeah, I would ask him to bring me lots of ice cream.” I carried on asking him more hypothetical questions, one of them was, “What if the waitress was Mary Earps (an English professional footballer)? He said, “Yes! and I would ask for her autograph.” Then we played where he was the waiter and I was ordering crazy food like fury eyeballs on pizza and he laughed and laughed. We switched roles and he got be a very undignified customer in my cafe making a lot of mess and noise. We played for a while and then moved on and I didn’t say anything else about it. The next time we went out to eat, I said to my son, “Do you want to give your order?” and he did it without any hesitation and he has done ever since. I was totally amazed! You might be thinking, ‘OK Zoe, that’s nice but my child doesn’t have a fear of ordering food.’ Everyone is different and every child is different. The reason I wanted to share this example with you is because it shows how powerful play can be in helping our kids overcome fears and challenges. Play allows us to join our kids in their fear so they are not alone with it. It also allows us to explore their fear in a way that feels safe to them. Do you have a situation with your child where you could use play to get some movement?


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Zoe Field is a certified peaceful parenting coach. She lives in England with her husband and two kids (ages 7 and 9). Zoe works one-on-one virtually with parents providing support and guidance in the wonderful and challenging world of raising children.

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