Campus News
Deepa Sivakumar headshot
Deepa Sivakumar, Early Childhood Education instructor at Lethbridge College.

As summer begins and children break from school, many parents seek summer camps and other new experiences for their children. While exciting, it can also be a source of anxiety for children.

Deepa Sivakumar, an instructor in Lethbridge College’s Early Childhood Education program, says talking about how the child is feeling about a new experience can help, and acknowledging those feelings without judgment is important. Creating time to connect and listen to children will boost their sense of security overall and give parents opportunities to provide reassurance and express confidence in the child’s ability to cope.

Sivakumar, who has more than a decade of experience in childcare and leading summer and after-school programs, says role modelling confidence and empathy through your body language and tone will send your child a message that you care about how their feeling and you’re there to support them through the journey.

  1. Prepare: Create excitement and focus on fun elements that resonate with your child and feel comfortable to them, says Sivakumar. “Familiarize the child with photos and information about the experience and what the child would be doing. The more the child knows what to expect, the less they will feel worried about it,” she says.
     
  2. Ask questions: Encourage the child to share information about how they are feeling with open-ended questions. Statements like “What do you think? How do you feel about his new experience?” allows the child to reflect on their emotions and better manage their anxiety about the situation, Sivakumar says.
     
  3. Be confident: “Share your confidence in the child and remind them that they have been through hard things earlier and they managed to make it through,” suggests Sivakumar. “Let the child know that you believe they can handle the new challenge.” Use phrases like “I know you are worried about doing this, but I am confident that you can handle this.” 
     
  4. Patience: “Patience is the mantra to work with children,” says Sivakumar. “Some children take more time to warm up to a new experience than others and it is important to give them that space to get accustomed to it.”
     
  5. Relax: Practise relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualization exercises, or ask the child what has been calming in the past. Sivakumar suggests counting to four as the child inhales and exhales, asking them to imagine a favourite person or place, or playing quiet or calming music.
     
  6. Create routine: “Children feel more secure and less anxious if the routine has structure and predictability.” While there still may be some changes, teaching and reminding the child about a schedule or routine allows for a sense of belonging and self-confidence, Sivakumar says.
     
  7. Positivity: “Acknowledge the child’s efforts, no matter if it is big or small, and reinforce their value and individuality,” suggests Sivakumar. “Praise the children for their effort even if they are not successful in accomplishing it.” A phrase like “I appreciate your hard work to complete this project,” can increase the child’s willingness and confidence.

Sivakumar’s final reminder is to meet the child with kindness, empathy and compassion. In doing so you will help them manage their anxiety to face new experiences for now and the future.

If you’re looking for new experiences for your children, Lethbridge College has summer camps for children and youth from ages four to 17.