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Lifestyle

February 2, 2014

Overcoming fear of skiing need not be uphill battle

Dear Doctor,

We are avid skiers and have enjoyed the sport with all of our children. Recently the middle child, an 11-year-old boy, has begun to avoid skiing. He will say he would rather stay in the lodge and read or sit in a hot tub or anything other than skiing.

Finally we confronted him about it and he says he does not know why but has become afraid of going down the hill. He has never had an accident on the slopes. I don’t think he has even seen one. There is not history of this kind of thing in either one of our families. The rest of us want to enjoy our time and we want him to do so too. Are there ways to go about helping him?

Looking

Dear Looking,

There are many approaches. The simplest and best is something called “exposure therapy.”

The approach is a rewrite of an older theory called “reciprocal inhibition.” It begins with a non-rotective approach.

That does not mean punitive or hostile, just avoiding giving in to the fear. In your son’s case there is no obvious trauma, just the thought of danger.

Youngsters with this pattern are often very bright, obsessive and can work up some scary possibilities out of thin air.

Let him know you want to help him and will be there to support but he will ski. Think of some small steps. For example hearing a story about skiing, riding the lift to the top and down again, walking on snow close to the point of activity, or similar things. Each time encourage hi to breathe slowly and to relax. Don’t overpraise, just say “good” each time he does an activity.

Finally, find a no hill hill. You know what I mean: a slight skiable incline. Do this one over and over. Give him credit and gentle praise. Slowly up the challenge until he is skiing again.

Don’t talk too much. Stay focused on the objective and see if it works. Things will likely go uphill.

---

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can email Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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