I've been working with kids and their parents for over three decades. It seems clear to me that while parents are becoming increasingly involved in their kids' lives there may be a counterproductive side to this trend. I am certainly not implying that parents are intentionally doing anything wrong. I am saying, instead, that becoming overly involved in our kids' lives and by attempting to remove all and any obstacles in their way we may inadvertently be forgetting to teach our kids lessons about how to develop grit, resilience, and how to be self- sufficient.
We hear terms such as "helicopter parents" bandied about constantly. This, to me, feels somewhat disparaging and disrespectful to parents. I am frankly tired of labeling well-intentioned parents. I suggest that we move away from such labels and move instead to educate parents about how to help kids so that they themselves can be less involved in directly fixing their kids' problems.
I talk to parents almost every day and have made it my mission to teach parents how to teach resilience. When I was in graduate school we were taught that individuals are either born with the magical quality of resiliency or not. These days we have learned that resiliency or the ability to bounce back from difficult situations and even how to handle tricky situations can be taught. Here is how to do it:
1. Teach your kids that disappointment is acceptable and that you not only expect it but that you yourself deal with disappointment in your own adult life. Disappointment should not be thought of as completely negative. We learn from our disappointments.
2. Remind your kids that failure is OK. We all experience failure at different junctures of our lives and this often teaches us to be humble, empathic and how to handle future situations differently. In other words, failure, too, can provide a learning opportunity.
3. Remind your kids about the importance of having a support system of individuals who are there for them when they are happy and sad. We all function best when we have a fan club;right?
4. Please teach your kids to retain a sense of playfulness. Model this for them. Too often, we teach kids to take life way too seriously. This teaches and fosters increased levels of anxiety. Hey, we all need a bit of levity in our lives.
5. Have your kids take little mini-vacations from stress. If, for example, they are feeling very pressured by homework suggest that they take a brief time-out.
6. Model healthy eating,sleeping and exercise habits. We all function better when we feel good physically.
7. Remind your kids that they can sit on negative emotions for 24 hours before acting on them. After 24 hours they may not feel so upset anymore. I love this 24 hour rule. Every emotion does not require an accompanying behavior.
8.Teach your kids that it is not only acceptable but positive to ask for help without experiencing shame. We all need help and we all benefit from helping each other.
I wish you luck as you grapple with these issues. It's not easy being either a child or a parent but guidelines always help!