Helping Your Child Overcome Embarrassment

young child embarrassment

Reading time: 3 minutes

Suitable for: Families with primary-age children

There are lots of practical ways you can help your child overcome embarrassment. As adults, we know that embarrassment is a part of life. We might not like it, but we’ve learnt to deal with the feeling.

Children can find it much harder to cope with embarrassment. They feel everyone is watching them.

Some children seem less affected than others. For example, one child may not care that they have a low score on a test, while another will feel hugely embarrassed. One child will happily bare all in a public changing room, while another cowers behind a towel in case someone notices them.

Why do we feel embarrassed?

Embarrassment is a normal and healthy emotion. We all feel this way sometimes. It’s usually the result of making a public mistake and feeling judged by other people because of it.

Your child may feel embarrassed if they get something wrong, slip or spill something, or wet themselves. You don’t want them to stop feeling this way, but you do want them to recognise the emotion, and help them overcome the feeling.

Signs of embarrassment include:

  • Red cheeks and feeling hot
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Feeling ashamed
  • Wanting to hide away
  • Thinking everyone is looking at you

When your child feels embarrassed, don’t minimise their feelings or brush it off. Telling them, “There’s nothing to feel embarrassed about,” is giving them the message that their feelings aren’t important or something to be ashamed of.

Embarrassed child hiding face behind a book

Instead, empathise with them. Focus on how they reacted to the problem. You could say, “I’m sorry that happened to you, but I’m so proud of how you dealt with it.” 

Don’t give lots of public attention when your child is embarrassed, as this could just embarrass them more. Avoid teasing them when they do something silly. Even gentle mocking can feel huge when they’ve made a mistake.

It’s normal to feel embarrassed

Build your child’s confidence and resilience to bounce back from embarrassing moments. It’s natural to want to protect children, but they have to learn what embarrassment feels like and how to cope with it. 

Help your child overcome embarrassment by showing them everyone experiences it sometimes. You could ask them, “Do you think this has ever happened to anyone else before?” They might know a time when a friend has been through a similar situation. You can ask them how they dealt with it. 

You might talk to your child about times in the past when you’ve felt embarrassed. Focus on how the situation was fixed rather than your feelings at the time. 

But don’t make it into a competition. Phrases like, “That’s nothing compared to what happened to me,” can make your child feel like their situation is unimportant or they’re making an unnecessary fuss.

Further help

If you feel like your child is being purposefully embarrassed or bullied by their peers, it’s important for you to take action. Talk to your child’s school to share your concerns and ask for their support. 

Embarrassment becomes a problem if your child avoids certain situations or is reluctant to do things because of it. If you notice big changes to their behaviour or that embarrassment is affecting their life, talk to your GP as they may need some further support. 

Where next?

Our webinars and parenting classes give you the support you need to understand and manage your child’s challenging behaviour.

We’ll look at what the behaviour tells you, with lots of practical strategies you can use at home. Browse our upcoming events.

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