Is Your Child Afraid of Being Embarrassed?
Recently, a friend of mine described his 7-year-old daughter’s fit before school. “Don’t come into school with me” she yelled. She didn’t want to be seen with her Dad when she walked into her first grade classroom.
Joey was afraid that his Mom would yell too loud during his soccer game. “Don’t be too noisy” he warned. He hated the idea that the other kids would hear her.
Sarah didn’t want her Mom to hang out at her 9 year old friend’s birthday party for the same reason—she was afraid of being embarrassed.
I remember the same feeling when I was 13 years old. I was overwhelmed with embarrassment when my mother would hug me in public. God forbid she would kiss me in front of my friends!
My youngest daughter was allergic to my wife and I hugging and kissing in public! She was embarrassed by our show of affection.
Psychologists and pediatricians often talk about common childhood fears—darkness, nightmares, talking in front of class, or social anxiety. But what about the fear of public humiliation? I think that it’s more common than most people think.
Some children seem to be more prone than others to this concern. Why?
Some kids are more anxious about their image. They worry about what others will think. They want to be viewed in a certain way. They are sensitive to others reactions to them. In the spotlight, they feel under a microscope—every blemish is revealed.
Other children may have experienced some form of public humiliation by an adult. Perhaps their parent criticized them loudly in front of their friends. Public humiliation is very painful. It can be traumatic.
Some of these concerns are developmental. Between the ages of 7 and 12, children become increasingly aware of the complexities of friendships. Friends can be fickle, even during pre-adolescence. Rejection is painful.
Even huggy and affectionate kids start to distance themselves from their parents during early adolescence. As hormones rage, children become aware of their sexuality and physical contact with opposite sex parents can be awkward. Peers become increasingly important—no one wants to look funky in front of their friends. Parents are relegated to the rear seat of their child’s life. It’s tough for Moms and Dads.
So what can parents do?
Acknowledge your young child’s fears. It’s very helpful to help your younger child identify that she is fearful of embarrassment. Frequently young children are just worried. They really don’t know why they don’t want their Mom to walk into class with them. Let her know that you understand that she is afraid and feels tense. Acknowledge that worry is uncomfortable.
Reassurance isn’t helpful. As parents, our natural inclination is to reassure our youngsters that everything will be okay. It doesn’t help! Reassurance cuts off the conversation. We all know how it feels when someone tells us not to worry!
Expect teens to be easily embarrassed by their parents. Sigh. Its just part of the package. They will grow up. When they do, they won’t be so easily embarrassed. Just realize that pushing you away is an ordinary part of adolescent development.
Be yourself. Worried kids and adults will try to control others as a way to calm the butterflies in their stomachs. Don’t accommodate them. Help them learn how to tolerate their discomfort. Teach children how to soothe and calm themselves. Don’t allow them to control your choices. I know it’s hard. None of us like to see our kids suffer. But learning how to tolerate discomfort is good preparation for adulthood.
What do you do that embarrasses your child?