Denise Van Outen On Helping A Shy Child Gain Confidence

Denise Van Outen isn't someone you'd expect to be tackling confidence problems.

But her five-year-old daughter Betsy is quite a different character from her loud and proud mother

"People always think because Betsy’s my kid she’s going to be really super confident and want to be the centre of attention, but she can be a bit shy and not overly confident," the 41-year-old actress told HuffPost UK Parents.

"For instance, Betsy started reception last year and when they were auditioning the kids to be in the nativity play she wouldn’t put her hand up to be one of the main characters, she wanted to be something in the background," Van Outen adds.

"She needs a bit of encouragement and that's part of my role as a parent: to support her and help boost her confidence."

Knowing how best to nurture a child whose personality is different from your own can be tricky, but Van Outen says she got a lot of pointers from her mother.

"I have an older sister and when we were growing up she was always less confident than I was," she says.

"My mum told me she didn't think she handled that in the best way.

"She would overcompensate for my sister, so if there was a party and somebody asked my sister a question or asked her to get up and dance, my mum would answer for her or get up with her, because she wanted to protect her.

"But she now realises that probably wasn’t the right thing to do and it would have been more beneficial to my sister if she’d got her to respond for herself, which is what she did with me and is probably why I've ended up in the industry that I’m in, because I had a lot of confidence growing up as a kid.

"Whatever you learn about confidence when you’re younger is something you carry through into your adult life, so it’s a really crucial time.

"I'm a mum with a five-year-old who’s not the most confident kid, so I'm trying to instill a bit more of that in her by repeating what my mum did with me, because I want her to grow up into a confident adult."

However, Van Outen believes there is a fine line between helping a child stand on their own two feet and becoming a pushy parent, and it's a line she's careful not to cross.

"I do push her to try new things, but obviously only within reason, because you don’t want to force her to do anything she's not comfortable with," she says.

"I just push her take small steps to being more confident. For instance, if we go out to eat with friends I'll get her to ask the waitress for the bill.

"Just tiny little things like that which make her feel all grown up. Giving a child that bit of responsibility to do something for themselves makes a lot of difference as they feel so proud of themselves when they do it."

Van Outen had to put her confidence boosting skills into practise last year when Betsy initially struggled with the move from nursery to reception.

"Changing into a new school is quite a big deal for a little one, especially when they’ve been in a tiny little classroom and they're going to be moving into a bigger school with big kids," she says.

"That's definitely something I can imagine could be quite daunting at that age.

"So I just tried to make it exciting for her by talking to her about all the new friends she's going to meet and all the fun things she'll be able to do. It's an exciting new chapter in her life and that's how it should feel, rather than her having anxiety about it."

Another area in which Betsy has needed a confidence boost was with potty training.

"Betsy was about two and a half and at the time I felt that she was quite slow compared to a lot of my friends' kids," says Van Outen.

"Lots of my friends also have older children and I think it took Betsy longer to learn because she's an only child so she didn't have anyone to set an example for her.

"She had a few accidents and even now she still has the occasional accident, as all children do. She comes home from school with her little knickers wrapped up in a bag.

"Sometimes kids just get caught unawares. Betsy will be playing and enjoying time with her friends and she won't want to be distracted by going to the toilet. For a little kid going to the toilet is boring in comparison to playing with all your mates, and they don't want to miss any fun.

"She also sometimes wets the bed and accidents like that can really knock a child's confidence, so I think it's really important to let kids know that there’s nothing wrong with having an accident.

"I tell Betsy that's she not the only kid it happens to, there are lots of children that wet the bed and it is something that she will eventually grow out of, so there's no need to worry."

Teaching Betsy this lesson has lead Denise to settle on a new phrase to live her life by.

"As I've said a lot while Betsy's been potty training - accidents happen and that's ok.

"That's something I try and teach her and actually I think it's very good advice when applied to most things in life."

Denise van Outen is fronting the DryNites® Confident Kids 24/7 campaign which aims to provide parents with helpful tools and advice to boost their child's confidence and overcome challenges such as bedwetting.

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