To grow and mature, children need to face challenging situations.
A comfort zone is by definition a pleasant place: somewhere you feel comfortable and safe, where you don’t have to take risks and your chances of failure are low. While that can be nice, you’ve probably also experienced the joy that comes from overcoming a fear, doing a task or project that was difficult for you, or discovering that you’re capable of doing something you never thought you could.
There are some parenting philosophies that encourage parents to do everything possible to ensure their children are always feel comfortable and safe, rarely experience failure, and are never pushed to do something they don’t want to do. This kind of approach, though implemented with good intentions, deprives children of learning how to confront difficult situations or experiences that would help them mature and prepare them for adulthood. It’s not that failure and difficulty are to be sought for their own sake; but if parents don’t encourage their children to leave their comfort zone—what they love to do or can do without difficulty—they won’t be able to discover all the options life offers them.
Here are several tips for helping your children get out of their comfort zone, starting with your own example as a parent:
Lead by example
If children watch their father or mother face difficult situations, try new things, or overcome their fears, then they will be able to do it too. Getting out of your own comfort zone is also a way of showing your children all the good challenging yourself can bring.
Console and support
It will be more difficult for children to leave their comfort zone if they don’t feel that their parents are there for them. The role of parents isn’t to overprotect their children or try to avoid them experiencing any frustration, but to accompany them on the path of growing up, to console them if things go wrong, and to invite them to start over when necessary.
Start with small challenges
It’s not a question of taking your son to the top of the tallest nearby building if he’s afraid of heights, or of making your daughter speak in public if she is shy, but of choosing more modest challenges that will allow your children to leave their comfort zone gradually. It could consist in talking to another child in the park, or sliding on the highest slide. It’s these little things that will give them the feeling of making progress and overcoming their fears.
It doesn’t matter if they fail
Exposing oneself to failure and accepting that things might not go as planned is a first step outside the comfort zone. This helps our children become resilient and persevering. Failures help them learn to overcome disappointment, and realize it’s not the end of the world.
Reading them stories that portray strong, courageous, daring characters who have overcome their fears is a good way to get children out of their comfort zone. Talking with them about these values makes them want to apply them in real life.