Have you heard the phrase “helicopter parent?” It describes a mother or father that ‘hovers’ around their child 24/7, overseeing every aspect of the child’s life to keep safe from every potential danger, pitfall and mishap. In theory this sounds great right? “If I am there to guide and direct every step I know my child will be okay.” However, this style of parenting is rarely realistic, or productive, as we cannot monitor their every move and in reality: life happens.
Adversity is a part of life. Those children who engage with adversity in their formative years learn how to handle it well and develop the ability to come up with strategies and solutions to overcome challenges. These are the kids that grow up to be resilient, getting right back up when life knocks them down a few pegs.
How your child sees the world, and their own potential in it, directly informs how they make decisions. Teach them a positive and empowering mindset from the beginning- a “growth mindset”. Teach them that mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn what does and does not work. Validate that losing a game, or doing poorly on a test really stinks and help them focus on steps they can take to improve. Above all your kids should know that it’s not about win or lose- what really matters is the commitment and effort they put into reaching their goal.
A child will never be able to develop their own coping strategies if someone is there every second making sure they never become hurt or disappointed. If your child is coming to you for help ask probing questions to get them thinking about how they can fix the problem. For example, “is there another way you both can play with that toy?” Communicating your belief in your children’s ability to solve their own problems with help to increase their self-esteem and belief in their own abilities.
All parents want to keep their kids safe, but there comes a point when you’ve got to let go a bit and let them learn HOW to be safe on their own. For instance, one day your child will need to get their driver’s license. You can help that older child be a safe driver by allowing their younger self to ride their bicycle around the neighborhood. This will teach them to pay attention, look both ways, etc.
Teach your child how to navigate anxiety-producing or uneasy situations. Rather than focusing on the problematic areas of those experiences, focus on how to ensure safety or cope with them. I work with lots of anxious kids, who have anxious parents. What I find is often the children are reacting to their parents anxieties. For example, a child who is concerned about bullying had a parent who was combing their hair and picking out their clothes in 8thgrade- because the parent was worried if the child did these tasks alone they would be bullied. This child then felt very insecure about their ability to make their own choices, keep themselves safe and how their peers perceived them. A better approach for that parent would be to teach them how to do their hair independently, encourage the child to be confident in whatever they choose to wear, praise the child on their best traits (humor, intelligence, kindness) and to discuss with their child how to handle a bully- if and when- a situation occurs.
Children with secure attachment to their primary caregivers feel a sense of support and resilience. When a child is securely attached to their parents this serves a few functions: shapes mindset about the world and those in it (.e. the world is safe; I am loved), ensures they feel comfortable venturing on their own but equally as comfortable seeking support when needed, and these children also have greater ability to be open and honest with others about their feelings and needs.
Resiliency isn’t something we are born with. It is a skill that must be instilled and molded over time. Planting these seeds now will allow for a child raised to face adversity, solve-problems, and do so with confidence and grace. Parenting is a challenge and it certainly does not come with a manual. If you need support in your parenting journey, give my office a call today and let’s schedule a time to talk.