2 YEARS OLD

Does your tod­dler per­pet­u­ally look an­gry or wor­ried when faced with any­thing un­fa­mil­iar? DR RICHARD C. WOOLF­SON shares how you can work with his slow-to-warm-up tem­per­a­ment.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Why does your tod­dler al­ways look an­gry or wor­ried when faced with any­thing un­fa­mil­iar?

Cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for your tot to spend with other chil­dren and adults. The more chances of meet­ing others, the more condent he be­comes.

If your tod­dler is one of those who al­ways seems to be sus­pi­cious of new sur­round­ings and new peo­ple, and per­pet­u­ally looks an­gry or wor­ried when faced with any­thing un­fa­mil­iar, then you may be wor­ried he isn’t get­ting as much fun out of life as he could have.

He is very slow to warm up, com­pared to other two-year-olds who im­me­di­ately throw them­selves into ev­ery new ex­pe­ri­ence with to­tal en­thu­si­asm. He looks mis­er­able and anx­ious, while the rest are hav­ing a great time.

There can be sev­eral ex­pla­na­tions for your young child’s wari­ness of the un­fa­mil­iar, in­clud­ing: Shy­ness

Some chil­dren who are shy ac­tu­ally look like they are an­noyed when they meet new peo­ple. Their sus­pi­cious fa­cial ex­pres­sions mask their un­der­ly­ing so­cial anx­i­ety about mix­ing with others they don’t al­ready know. Pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence

The last time your tod­dler met some­one new, it might not have worked out the way he had hoped. Now he is afraid that will hap­pen again. Per­son­al­ity

Not ev­ery kid can be the life and soul of the party. If your two-year-old is ret­i­cent and cau­tious by na­ture, that’s sim­ply his way of en­gag­ing with the world around him. His nat­u­ral tem­per­a­ment makes him sus­pi­cious of strangers.

You al­most cer­tainly have noth­ing to worry about as long as your tod­dler’s sus­pi­cious na­ture doesn’t in­ter­fere with his life. For ex­am­ple, he doesn’t refuse to go to playgroup, he isn’t so­cially iso­lated with his peers and he doesn’t avoid go­ing out­doors.

Even so, you may still want him to be more out­go­ing and trust­ing to others, and to ap­pear less with­drawn and aloof when meet­ing some­one new.

One of the best strate­gies is to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for your young kid to spend time with other chil­dren and adults. This could be when his grand­mother looks af­ter him for an af­ter­noon or when the babysit­ter stays with him while you go out for an evening. You could also take him along for lunch dates with your friends.

The more op­por­tu­ni­ties he has to so­cialise, the more condent he be­comes in man­ag­ing these ex­pe­ri­ences. The same ap­plies to mix­ing with his peers.

Do this even if he con­tin­ues to ap­pear an­gry or anx­ious. If you let your tod­dler miss new so­cial ex­pe­ri­ences sim­ply be­cause he is wary of meet­ing new peo­ple, he won’t have the chance to learn how to re­spond dif­fer­ently.

Where pos­si­ble, give your tod­dler ad­vance warn­ing that he’ll soon have con­tact with un­fa­mil­iar adults. You won’t al­ways be able to do this, but a few min­utes’ no­tice gives him time to pre­pare him­self psy­cho­log­i­cally, for ex­am­ple, to meet un­ex­pected visi­tors to your home.

And when they ar­rive at your front door, give him lots of as­sur­ance and en­cour­age­ment to be less ret­i­cent with them.

But avoid putting him un­der ex­ces­sive pres­sure to be overtly friendly. Ex­plain to him that you will not force him to be warm and open with your visi­tors, but make it clear that you ex­pect him to try.

You can also teach him specic so­cial skills and prac­ti­cal ac­tions that make him look less dis­tant and ap­pre­hen­sive. For in­stance, ex­plain that he should make eye con­tact and put a smile on his face.

Like­wise, he should keep his shoul­ders back and hold his head up straight. En­cour­age him to re­ply when spo­ken to.

Prac­tise these through role-play – you can pre­tend to be some­one whom he has never met be­fore.

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