Q: We moved to a new school; now our eight-year-old son is expressing fear of riding the van. He did okay last year, so I don’t understand this development. It’s too far for him to walk, and my wife and I both work so we can’t drive him every day. What can we do?
A: This can be quite normal for children that are a bit shy; if that’s the case, your child will need some reassurance and coaching. If he’s generally outgoing, adventurous, and not usually afraid, then you’ll need to dig deeper.
First, ask your son for more information. Did something occur last year on the van? Was there a problem with other children? Is anything especially scary about the new setting? If nothing bad happened previously, the issue could be he’s just nervous about the unknowns at this new school.
You can make that first ride less intimidating with some planning. You could have him take a stress ball or fidget spinner to help him as he manages his fearful feelings. Or he could quietly play “detective” and note different school bags, nose shapes, or hairstyles he sees on the van, then share those observations with you when he gets home.
Another idea is planning a special celebration for the first day and the first week of successfully riding the new van. Celebrations help a child focus on controllable things rather than the things that cannot be controlled.
Help your son see how fear is to be conquered and not avoided. Some personalities do better with this than others. But learning to manage uncomfortable feelings is a great life skill that will always be helpful as he grows.
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