Tips for raising kids who can manage stress and negotiate challenges
Focus on Effort and Progress, Not Outcome
Focusing on effort and progress encourages your kids to keep working, even when things are hard, and to focus on improvement and personal growth. Looking only at outcomes can be discouraging when someone is struggling and can also send the message that once a milestone or “endpoint” is achieved, that the work is “done” and there is no point in trying to progress further.
Let them Make Decisions
Giving your children the opportunity to make decisions helps them to feel more engaged with what they are doing, which will help them stick with it if it becomes challenging or doesn’t go as planned. It also helps develop a sense of autonomy, allowing them to feel competent and confident in their abilities to make choices and solve problems.
Allow for Natural Consequences
Often when parents are worried about their children making choices that will lead to negative consequences, such as not wearing a warm enough jacket or forgetting to pack themselves a snack, Mom or Dad will jump in to alleviate the situation before the problem even has a chance to present itself. However, allowing your child to make choices and then let the natural environment dictate the consequences provides more meaningful feedback that will reinforce future decision-making. If they go outside and are cold,likely they will come back in, or next time they will make sure they remember that sweater, and not just because someone told them so. When the feedback children receive is primarily a caretaker telling them what to do, they miss out on opportunities to develop their own intrinsic sense of what feels good or bad to them or to learn for themselves how to plan and anticipate possible outcomes.
Don’t Rush to Fix Every Problem
Letting your child sit with a challenge helps them develop the ability to solve problems for themselves and also to tolerate the uncomfortable emotions that inevitably come when struggling through a difficult situation. If the situation is overwhelming or far beyond your child’s abilities, feel free to provide enough support to bring the challenge down to a manageable level, but try not to solve the problem for them entirely. As people get older, typically the situations they need to contend with get more complex with more significant potential consequences, so learning to solve problems and manage challenges when they are little and the stakes are still relatively low can be extremely beneficial for long-term growth.
Validate their Feelings
When your child is having a hard time, parents and caregivers can help normalize what he or she is experiencing and also model appropriate ways to manage it. Allowing your children to sit with difficult emotions and teaching appropriate coping skills will help them develop a greater tolerance for negative feelings. Showing your kids that it is okay to not always feel okay can give them greater acceptance for what they are experiencing.
Be a Source of Connection and Support
By being a consistent and reliable presence in your children’s lives, and providing emotional support when they need it, you will help them feel confident in taking risks and managing challenges. This is because your support will help them develop a strong sense of security in knowing they have reliable places to go when they need help and comfort. And as your children grow older, they will learn to seek out, and also to nurture, security in other significant relationships. They will have a greater capacity to handle difficult situations because they will have internalized this sense of support.