Read a book about it: There are so many books for kids about so many different topics. Researchers have found that when you are reading a book, your brain lights up in the same ways that it would if you were actually doing the activity (source: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/how-our-brains-process-books/). It seems to me that might be half the battle! Find a book that addresses whatever new situation your child might find themselves facing. Read it together and let them ask questions. Knowing what to expect makes a lot of new experiences much less scary.
Try something new WITH your kids: If you wanted your child to learn to ice-skate, but they were scared of falling – you would put some skates on and hold their hand! Trying something new with someone you trust makes the whole experience more exciting and less intimidating—so overcome your own nerves or awkwardness and join in!
Give them a friendly push: Now, if your kid is all-out terrified to do something—don’t make them do it. Use discretion here—don’t make your kids hate an activity by forcing them to participate when they aren’t ready! But I think when it’s just a matter of not wanting to feel uncomfortable, sometimes it can be helpful to give kids a little loving push out of their comfort zone. You might even try giving them an incentive if it will make the process smoother (you say bribe, I say an occasional, carefully applied reward). My mom always told us that you can’t say you don’t like something unless you’ve tried it at least once. Make a bargain with a resistant child that if they try something new and absolutely hate it, you won’t bring it up again. Then if that happens, you can help them find a different activity or experience that will be a better fit.
Ask yourself if the activity is really something they have to do: I have a couple of kids in my house who refuse to eat peas. I could force the issue, but I ask myself, are they really missing out on something essential if they won’t try peas? I don’t think so. There are plenty of other vegetables that will provide the same nutrients. So if your child is really not wanting to participate in an activity, see if you can find an alternative that they will like better. New experiences are valuable, but maintaining a close, trusting relationship with your child is way more important than that!
Pray with them about it: There is SOMEONE who loves your child even more than you do, and WHO can be with them in all the places and situations where you can’t. Pray with your child about new things that are making them nervous, and emphasize that when they find themselves alone in a new situation, the Lord is always with them. You want to give your child confidence, you want them to know they can count on you to be in their corner—but even more importantly, you want to give them the opportunity to trust God with the unknown. New experiences can be a great chance to practice that.
What do you do when your child is resistant to trying something new?