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6 Embarrassing Kid Situations

By Rebecca Felsenthal Stewart
WebMD Feature

You know the feeling: hot cheeks, wishing you could disappear. You'd do anything to spare your child that sense of embarrassment. 

But those feelings happen, and they're normal.

"Starting around 4 or 5 the world gets bigger for children, and so does their awareness of it, meaning they become aware of dirty looks, teasing, being pointed at, and being different," says psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD, author of Positive Parenting. "Partly that's developmental, and partly it's because of school -- they have so much more peer interaction."

Around this age, kids also start to develop an inner conscience. "When kids are younger their conscience is similar to that of a dog: It's external. Are you going to be praised or get in trouble? During the school years it's becoming internal and children become aware if they do something that violates their own sense of order," Cohen says.

Don't make light of it, says child development expert Betsy Brown Braun, author of Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents.

"It's really the parent's job to empathize and understand," Braun says. "Don't make it bigger than your child is making it, but don't blow it off. If your child says, 'Today I bent over and my pants ripped,' say, "Oh my gosh, that must have been hard.' Ask how she handled it and try to get her talking about it."

If your child says she can't go back to school because everyone will laugh at her, tell her you understand why she feels that way. "You can say, 'Not going back to school is not a workable solution, but I can understand that it feels like the only possible way. We'll have to work together to find a solution'," Cohen says.

A great way to show you understand is to tell your own embarrassing story. Emphasize how difficult it was (not how terrible it was). Admitting how poorly you handled it can help, Braun say, because "it helps your child understand she's not alone."

Braun and Cohen share more tips to help your child get past six common, embarrassing situations.

1. Passing Gas in Public

Farting, sneezing and spraying boogers, throwing up, or even peeing in class are common scenarios for grade-school kids. "The most painful embarrassing moments are ones over which you have no control," Braun says. "These fall under the category of 'couldn't help it.'"

She suggests reminding your kids that everyone farts. "Another thing I tell kids is, 'You know, the reason people laugh or react when something embarrassing happens is because they are relieved that it happened to you, not them.'"

Help your child acknowledge the situation, laugh it off, and move on, says Braun. Tell her to say something along the lines of, "Beans for dinner last night. Sorry." If kids are still teasing, say, "Oh get over it," and try to distract them. Don't pretend it didn't happen.

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