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Eat Smart for a Great Start Challenge

Building Confidence in Kids

Dr. Stephanie SmithHi, I’m Dr. Stephanie Smith, and I’m a clinical psychologist, blogger and Parents on Produce advisor at Produce for Kids. At I write about creating healthy lifestyles for kids and families. Anxiety about trying new things is certainly something that both kids and adults can experience. The good news is, we can help our kids feel more confident, making them more likely to try out a variety of activities.  They may then be more likely to continue to pursue activities they enjoy – even if they are not superstars from the start.
Father teaching son to ride a bike
Here are a few ways you can help your child build confidence and feel comfortable in new situations.

  • Start small, start somewhere.  Biking a long trail isn’t a great start for kids just learning to ride a bicycle. Training wheels and going around the driveway are better ways to start.  Make sure you set achievable goals that will allow your child to experience success.
  • Ask for your child’s input.  None of us like to be told what to do.  Ask your child for their ideas when starting a new activity.  Their ideas (and their bravery) might surprise you.
  • Participation is the point.  It’s important that both you and your child remember that for new activities, just giving it a try is the point.  Celebrate participation, not just mastery.
  • Keep track of your own feelings.  Kids pick up on our emotions even when it seems like they are ignoring us!  If you’re anxious in a new situation, they’ll know and likely feel anxious too.  If you find yourself in this situation, talk to them about it.  For example, “Wow, I’m feeling a little nervous about this rollercoaster.  I know it’s safe though, and I’ve enjoyed rollercoasters in the past, so I’m going to give it a try.”

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow to “Martha Speaks” for a special episode about trying new things. Alice wants to take up dance, but worries that she won’t do well. Then Martha wants to be an agility dog, but finds out that it’s tougher than she thought. Watching other children (or characters) try new things can teach kids how to overcome anxieties.

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Find activities, parenting tips, games from your child's favorite PBS KIDS programs and more.