Overcoming toddler insecurities

J has a one of a kind character, fiercely persistent with a heart of gold. He greets everyone , even strangers with his coy yet sincere smile. He seems rather popular in school, with a couple of older kids taking a liking for him.

However, we noticed that his tenacity and social tendencies melts away when he is placed in a social situation without us, specifically at the playground. He can be running and jumping happily when he is playing alone but when throngs of kids come to the playground, he starts to redraw into his own little world. He gets whiny and super clingy. 

Looking back, it could be a few occasions where he has been asked to shoo by older kids who come by as a group. He was insecure and perhaps a little fearful. 

I am sure he will get more clingy as with most kids at this age. This is when they become aware of their surroundings, a time when new things overwhelm them. At this stage, they have also discovered fear, and will need our help to overcome it. 

It can get pretty frustrating trying to figure out what is making J insecure. He can suddenly stop short in his tracks, look at us sullenly. Sometimes, he just runs to us and tells us he is "scared scared". When a older kid pushes him by accident, he begins to panic. 

I am trying a couple of simple ways to help him overcome his insecurities, and I am seeing some progress. Slowly... but surely. Lots of patience required too. 

1) Acknowledge
It is quite a norm when our toddler expresses fear, whether it is losing us, or being frightened of the dog etc, we will tell them it is ok.

It is obviously not ok, hence the tears. What I tend to do is tell J that I know he is scared and worried (or whatever he may be feeling at that point). However, mummy will be close by to ensure he feels better and that he is safe. I will also ask him what is it that made him feel the way he did.. " Was the slide too steep? Did the kor kor push you off and you felt scared?..." Sure. He does not quite know how to verbalise his fears yet. But at least when I list the possibilities, he can identify them. At least he knows he is not alone facing his own fears. Helping him to verbalise his emotions is also a way to teach him how to do so when he gets older.

2) Comfort
When you feel upset and scared, what do you want your loved ones to do? I will shower J with hugs and kisses. J always seeks hugs from me when he is upset. So, when I sense he is insecure over something, I offer my hugs without request. It reinforces that he is definitely not alone.

3) Encourage
Don't stop him from what he was doing  just because he was insecure. I believe that the way to overcome one's fear is to take it on. If it takes over 8 times of trying before a child will like eating something, then similarly, it should take a couple of times facing his fear will he then learn to overcome it. In a playground setting, if J was afraid of the slide, I would want him to go down it again and again and again till he starts to enjoy it.

4) Applaud
When J does good, I will load up on praises. I know many parents frown upon praising their kids as this may lead to them becoming proud and cocky. However, if given appropriately, it will boost their self confidence especially at the toddler stage where they are constantly seeking reassurance from their parents.

We are now making an effort to take J out more often, to places that requires him to play alongside other children, and we hope by doing so, with with the practices above, he will soon be the fun-loving, sociable and confident litter charmer we want him to be.

Do you have any tips to help J overcome his insecurities? Do share!

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