Ask the Experts

Q: “New, Strange Experiences Terrify My Child”

New situations can spark tremendous anxiety. By talking through each part of the experience, a parent can help a child anticipate what might happen — and how they might respond in a healthy way when it does.

Q: “My daughter is terrified and anxious about any new experience. How can I help her to try anything new? ”

A: Children don’t know what to expect in new situations, so scripting a scenario ahead of time can be helpful. Taking incremental, inch-by-inch actions might also help. For instance if the child is afraid of going to the library, you could say to your daughter, “OK, we are not going to go to the library but today we are going to sit on the front porch and read a book. Tomorrow we’re going to take a chair out to the sidewalk and we’re going to sit there.”

A child who is so afraid to try anything new probably would also benefit from seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist. First the therapist might take an inventory of the child’s symptoms and anxiety-provoking situations. Then the therapist might give the child inch-by-inch homework exercises to do between one session and the next and then talk about them.

With CBT, there is a big focus on using a wide range of strategies. For many children it’s tremendously reassuring to have a strategy or two in their pocket so they can say, ‘If I start to feel this way, here’s what I’m going to do.’

[Free Download: Kid-Friendly Mindful Meditation Exercises]

This content came from the ADDitude webinar by Eileen Costello, M.D., and Perri Klass, M.D., titled “Worry Less: Managing Anxiety in Children and Adolescents with ADHD and Learning Differences”, which is available for free replay here.