Red Alert: Helping Kids Deal with Embarrassment

More Embarrassing Situations and How to Ease Them

GOOFING UP

Suppose your son tripped in the school cafeteria and dropped his lunch on the floor. Or kicked the ball into the other team's goal at a soccer match. Whenever he messes up big-time, he wants to hide. A blunder in front of peers is humiliating for 5- and 6-year-olds because they're trying to make lots of new friends. "They think that other kids won't want to hang out with them after their gaffe," says Dr. Villegas-Reimers.

Blush Buster Tell your child that it's okay to laugh it off. While his first reaction may be to cry or get angry, making a joke out of it or saying something like, 'Now that was silly,' is the way to deflate attention. Remind him to give other kids a break when they make mistakes so they'll do the same for him.

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO

If your daughter's friend knows her full address, your kid must know hers too. Her sister did a back flip? She has to give it a try. A classmate can ice-skate? Your daughter begs you for lessons. Anytime someone does something she can't, it's a huge issue. "Kids in this age group are concerned about what they're doing and how it compares with others," says Dr. Klinepeter. If a child can't do something as well as a peer, she may feel inferior.

Blush Buster Bring the focus back to your child. "Tell her she's doing her best and emphasize the things she can do well," says Dr. Klinepeter. Then explain that everyone has different talents -- and she shouldn't feel bad if she can't do the same thing as her friend. But help her think about how she could learn or improve the skills needed to accomplish -tasks. For instance, if she's upset be-cause she can't tie her sneakers, offer to teach her. Says Dr. Villegas-Reimers: "It will help her realize that although the embarrassment doesn't feel good, she can do something about it."

CRUSH BLUSH

Does your son play with a neighborhood girl but ignore her when his boy pals are around? Maybe he constantly talks about a girl from school but then tells his friends she's "gross." Boy-girl stuff can be super awkward. "A lot of kids still feel that boys play with boys and girls play with girls, so if a boy-girl friendship develops, it may be looked at as unusual by other children," says Dr. Klinepeter.

Blush Buster Don't assume that being friends with a girl means your son "likes" her. Explain that you have male friends and it's no big deal. But if he is love-struck, resist getting all nosy about it. "Let him know everyone has a crush from time to time," says Dr. Fisher. Then if he wants to talk about it, let him. If not, give him space.

Originally published in the January 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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