Coping with anxiety is never easy, even more so for young children. Theatre is one useful way parents can help little ones overcome their fears and uneasiness.

This article is an excerpt of the article by Esplanade, read the full article here

From imaginary situations like monsters lurking in the dark, to facing real-life ones such as getting a haircut or learning to make friends, feeling fearful or anxious is a natural response for children as they go through different stages in their lives.

To address the unease young ones may have with potentially daunting situations, many adults have come to rely on reading books as well as role-playing situations with children.

Others find that bringing children to a theatre show might be another way of acknowledging and working through their fears, by offering a different perspective to the experience.

Here are five reasons why parents and educators think theatre for young audiences is a useful way to help kids feel braver about facing the world they live in.

1. Seeing is less intimidating than imagining

Watching a story unfold makes a lasting impression on young minds, and theatre is a safe space to explore something new. Seeing stories played out in a positive way is one good way to show children the situation might not be as scary as they had imagined.

Sarah Tan, a senior teacher from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS), who has had experience bringing children with special needs to watch plays, strongly believes that seeing can demystify an experience, making it less intimidating than if the child’s imagination were to run wild. She said:

"When they see, for example, a visit to the dentist, acted out in a non-threatening way, they see that the machine is not so scary after all."

In a PLAYtime! production, The Dragon’s Dentist, the protagonist is a dentist for a dragon with dental woes, and finding out more about what a dentist does sheds light on what may be a scary situation for some children.

Sarah shared that watching a scene come to life may just be the positive reinforcement children need to overcome their fears.

2. There are more ways to react than just one

Theatre can also help children with expressing their emotions.

By introducing them to a range of behaviours, exposing them to and exploring various situations through encounters with the characters, themes, and storyline, they may be able to relate to the situation and recognise their own reactions through it.

This gives them the opportunity to work with their parents or teachers on an appropriate reaction when a similar situation arises.

Yasmira Johan, principal of Star Learners @ CCK Sports Childcare Centre, said many children learn social norms from what they have watched.

"They see how emotions are expressed. This may lead to them regulating their emotions, helping them with their social skills."

For example, a PLAYtime! production, Us, which will be held in August 2019, deals with emotions like jealousy, loneliness, and kindness as the children work through the dynamics of a new friendship, a situation young ones may very well find themselves in.

Teo Swee Shang, mum of three kids aged 2 to 6, agrees that children can get inspired when they see how the characters in a show handle difficult situations or experiences.

“This helps them see that there are alternative ways to manage themselves if they are in a similar position,” she added.

Continue reading here to find out how theatre can help ease anxiety of your little ones!

Image courtesy of Esplanade