Christmas fears

The Psychology of Growing Up Preparing Children for Kindergarten By Elena Gatsenko

Christmas Fears

Santa’s visit (or Father Frost, Noel) is not the main source of most children’s fears. Only the little ones get scared when, in the kindergarten or at home, they are greeted by a loud stranger in a bright outfit as he invades their personal space.The main source of children’s fears and, quite possibly, lasting and uncomfortable adult inhibitions is… holidays per se.

Hence, here are a couple of simple rules.First of all, imagine that the King of Spain (Angelina Jolie, Mark Zuckerberg – delete as applicable) invited you to an inauguration (wedding, orbital station opening), and wanted to shake your hand and to give a gift but, alas, you have important negotiations with your clients, an office briefing or the only time available for visiting a beauty parlour.

But it’s okay: his Lordship will invite you again in six months or so. This example of prioritising is clear, I believe. Someone who is more important than all the stars put together waits for you at the most important event (at this time of the child’s life). Don’t even think about missing it, unless you are having any part of your body put in plaster or you are a fire-fighter on duty.

Yes, it is not the first kindergarten play for your child and you will get a video of the event later on, but there is nothing more tragic for a child than the absence of his/her family, especially the mother, among the audience. Your child will forgive you, of course, but it will leave a scar, which may become a source of insecurity, reserved demeanour and distrust.

If you really have some force majeure, make sure to send someone from the family or a friend who knows and loves your child.Secondly, outfit. The older the child is the more important his/her outfit is. Choose it together in a hire shop, book it online or make it yourself. But make sure to have it approved by the “customer”.

For little children it means anticipating the magical moment together, imprinting, and the first reference impression of how one should celebrate holidays and take care of one’s family. For schoolchildren it means you showing respect for your child’s personality and tastes. Your child’s choice may surprise you, but it is their holiday and their role, and the outfit must make the young performer happy, even if he/she is dressed as a snowflake standing in the fourth row. Something that looks neat for you may become a catastrophe for a schoolchild and trigger mockery, and the other way round.

Here are two real-life examples. A school play. The presenter is a magician dressed as a… Car. The child did his part beautifully. It was his triumph. And I applauded his brave and loving mother. The thing is that the boy wanted to be dressed as his favourite character, Lightning McQueen, at the festival, but there was no suitable role for such an outfit. So he was appointed a presenter.

His mother made a costume for him out of two red backpacks, and then patiently and insistently explained to the teacher that the magician wished to turn into a car. He can do that, after all. Most parents didn’t even pay attention to the fact that the presenter was not dressed in a standard way. And the child’s mother made her son happy and earned his unlimited trust.

There was Pierrot in that school play. The boy was dressed in a beautiful outfit and wore professional white makeup. He didn’t wait for a group photo and left immediately, wiping his face with a sleeve. He felt embarrassed by his makeup and couldn’t hide his tears, and his mother was also upset and thought him ungrateful. She did everything, but forgot to ask whether her child liked her idea.

And thirdly, remember that you are not Stanislavsky’s incarnation and not a video-blogger inspecting a new restaurant. Don’t even think about criticising your child! No debriefing or error analysis. And don’t compare your child with other children. That’s the best way to make your child jealous. He/she will start hating his/her classmates or group mates and become reserved.Imagine a situation when you give a public performance, maybe not very successful, and your spouse or parent who was among the audience approaches you at the exit shaking his head and saying, “You could have done better. Why did you keep pulling at your dress and adjusting the crown? I told you not to touch them. Your friends were brilliant. Especially that blonde princess – brave and loud and danced beautifully.

Why were you so slow?”What would you want to do after that? Correct. At the very least, not to make public appearance ever again, not to invite your family, and just to blend in with the crowd. You can love your loud blondes, if you like.What shall you do then? Just give credit to your child. Praise him or her on and on.

While you are on your way home from the play, call someone and tell them that your child did beautifully, danced greatly, how the colour pink, green or brown looked good on him/her, that your child never missed the line and moved graciously, and maybe you should sign him/her up for a dancing course because he/she obviously had a talent. Put your heart into it. I am sure you will find something to praise your child for, even for participation in a very minor performance. Christmas is a traditional family holiday and the most memorable time. And it is the best time for parents to instil the best qualities and traits in their child. Do you want to remain a friend and authority for your child when he/she is a teenager? Demonstrate your absolute love in their early childhood. It is not difficult at all. Happy, merry and unforgettable holidays to you.Clinical psychologist Elena Gatsenko is a head of the pacesetting poly-lingual International Kids Club, where her interactive rubric “kindergarten” is dedicated to questions of early development and education of pre-schoolers.

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