Children, like adults, are creatures of habit. When their comfort zone is challenged, they feel threatened and are hesitant (if not all-out resistant) to accept change. On one hand, children are intrigued by something new or out of the ordinary (children are wonderfully inquisitive). On the other hand, children are comforted by and drawn to the familiar, making them reluctant to try new experiences, foods, routines etc. To reconcile a child’s urge to explore something new and their hesitation to drift from the familiar, it is necessary for a parent, teacher, or role model to encourage new experiences and affirm the child’s success when testing their boundaries.
We all have peers who fiercely hold on to their habits, so much so that those habits become deeply ingrained in their personality and how they identify themselves. Habits like self-prescribed eating limitation, extreme emotional boundaries, and stilted socialization call into question if they were encouraged to live outside their comfort zone or were even exposed to different experiences as children. Inspiring a child to try new hobbies, foods, and experiences only enriches their life in the long run.
A child’s opposition to break their routine is a parental challenge. When first attempting to implement change, a child may pout, cry, or even scream at the suggestion or encouragement to try something new. Keep in mind, the moment you make a pattern of giving into a child’s hesitation to accept something new is the moment the child defines such encounters as battles they can win. By not giving into their challenging behavior, however, and exposing them to new activities, foods, and experiences consistently, newness becomes a part of their norm.
- Be a model. Be adventurous in your own life to demonstrate that trying something new and being brave is an important part of life.
- Experience new adventures as a family. With the support of parents and siblings, children may feel safer to live outside their comfort zone.
- Listen. After they try something new, ask your child to express their feelings. If they are unhappy, acknowledge that you hear their feelings, but also congratulate them for their accomplishment.