We have a 5 year old daughter who has never been afraid of anything. Over Spring Break we went to the beach and had a great time. On the way back, however, she started crying and crying because she missed home. We chalked it up to her being over tired. Well, we are going to Disney World in June, like we do EVERY year (she has been 3 times already and loves everything about it). A couple weeks ago she started periodicly saying that she didn't want to go on the Tower of Terror (which she never has gone on before anyway). So, we said OK, of course. Well, she kept bringing it up every once and a while. Today she was in the shower and playing with her dolls and suddenly called us in there. She was crying and saying she didn't want to do to Disney World because she didn't want to miss our home. We tried to talk to her about it, look at old pictures, videos, etc. She remembered how fun it was and said she wanted to go. But then later on she started saying again that she would miss home and her friends and didn't want to go. We tried reassuring her (we'll call them every night, our neighbors will watch the house, etc), but nothing is working. She has very well-thought out reasons for not wanting to go. HELP! We don't know what to do. We obviously don't want to go all that way and spend all that money to have her breakdown when we are there. What do we do?!
This is kind of a tough situation because it's hard to know what's really going on here. But, you basically have three choices:
1. To go and empower her to cope
2. Don't go
3. Go without her
I can't make the decision for you but I can say that whatever you decide will have some implications down the road with the way she handles other fears that come up in her lifetime.
Option 1: The key to empowering kids to walk through their fears is to validate the feelings but not the content of the fear. So for instance: You could try saying something like, "I don't blame you for missing home. I kind of miss home, too! But whenever I feel a little sad, I think about (insert her favorite Disney ride here). Then, I get so excited that I can't wait to go! I hope you change your mind about how you feel about this vacation so we can all have a good time together." And then let it go. With this approach, you are modeling a way for her to cope without telling her how to do it. Modeling is always more powerful than lecturing. The more you try to argue her "well thought out points," the more you will validate her fears. Plus, think about all of the attention she is getting from you over this.
Here are some points about "Reassurance" taken from my book:
• It is a natural response for adults to reassure a child who is frightened and needy.
• It makes the adult feel better.
• It might seem to help the child feel better temporarily.
• Reassurance can gain immediate compliance.
• Constant reassurance does not build coping skills or resilience.
• It can become an addictive habit.
• It becomes less effective the more it is used.
• Can create more worry and concern in the child.
• Use truthful reassurance sparingly and only if it doesn't lead to more worried questions.
• Use empathy, encouragement, choices, and descriptive phrases instead.
So spend alot more time with her on planning fun things to do and going to the Disney website to look at the maps and watch the Disney resort DVD together than you do "discussing and arguing" her fears.
So in summary: acknowledge the fear but don't dwell on it. Empower her to cope. Dwell in the fun stuff. Give her the "can-do" message, ("Lots of kids have fears about things but I think you're one of those especially brave kids who just keep on going despite their fears.")
Option 2: I don't recommend this because it just isn't good for a child to know that he or she can make such big choices that affect the whole family. But if you think your trip will be totally miserable (you know your child) then maybe this is something you should consider. And if you decide not to go to Disney, I would suggest that you make a point to go away, just the two of you, for a couple of days at least. Her fear should not ruin your special time together. Vacations are also for the parents- not just the kids. :-)
Option3: One option is to go on the vacation without her if you have family nearby to take care of her for a few days. But make sure you discuss this with her and give her the choice.
Parent Coach Lisa
These ideas are from the award-winning Love and Logic book "Parenting Children with Health Issues." Love and Logic is a well-known parenting program that has been used in schools and homes around the world for over 30 years. www.loveandlogic.com
Parent Coach Lisa is a Love and Logic author, public speaker and parent coach. She is the co-author (with Foster Cline MD) of "Parenting Children with Health Issues." www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com
Try reading "Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows: Helping Children Adjust to Change" with your child.The story centers on Harry,a caterpillar that has a fantastic life full of games, friends, school and leaf eating. He is stunned when, one day at caterpillar school, he learns that he is expected to build a chrysalis and become a butterfly. Harry vows to remain a caterpillar forever, as his friends build their chrysalises and move on. Eventually, Harry learns to accept change as a necessary part of life, and joins his friends as a butterfly. There are tips in the back of the book to help parents and educators use the story as a vehicle to help kids talk about their feelings about change, and teach them coping strategies to manage their anxiety.