A unique opportunity to influence our children's mindset
I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has not gone as any of us hoped or planned. We have all had to meet new challenges in our work, school, and personal lives, and it has not been easy. As we go into the month of May, a light at the middle of the tunnel, I want to remind parents of the importance of showing our kids that they can persevere, even during hard times. Even now during the quarantine (hard times), we have a unique opportunity to help children feel empowered and develop coping skills they will still need in good times.
When we see our child feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, it's in our nature to want to relieve their suffering by taking away the source of the stress. We want to save our kids from distress, but the underlying message we might be sending is: “You couldn’t handle it, so I stepped in to fix it.”
This applies to Distance Learning. When your child is frustrated, unsure, or wishes they had done better on an assignment, how we respond at those times will have an enduring impact. One of the best things we can do for kids during challenging times is to serve as a sounding board. Mirror back how they’re feeling and then help them decide what options they have.
“You sound really frustrated with that assignment.
Do you want to keep working at it now or move on to something else…and take it to tomorrow's Zoom session with your teacher?”
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer as to when your child needs a push or needs a break. I would much rather see parents take time to help their child think through their options and make a plan, than to try to re-teach academic content. My point is not so much about hyper-focusing on academics, but rather I want us to be thoughtful how we respond when our kids run into a tricky spot.
We won’t be able to reassure and empower our children if we, ourselves, are not feeling it. Sometimes we have to psych ourselves up before we talk to our child. Check your own feelings. If you are anxious or upset, this is not the time to work with our child. Take a break and engage in self-care. We can’t tell a child not to be so anxious if we are personally modeling that emotion. We also need to remind kids that, while we wish things were different and we know it’s hard being at home and missing our friends, at the end of the day, we still have to choose our mood.
Choose Your Mood
Choosing our mood is something we teach kids as young as TK in our elementary program. One of my favorite books that we use to start conversations about this aspect of mindset is The Pout Pout Fish (take a look). In Upper Elementary, we also tie these ideas about mindset into literature as the students analyze characters and themes, even now in their live Zoom Book Club meetings.
Advice from Behavioral Science
We are all cycling through a wide range of emotions. 2020 will come and go, but the mindset we instill in our kids will be with them for many years to come. I implore parents to (1) start with your own self-care and (2) keep working with your child on a positive growth mindset. I leave you with some advice from Dr. Kendra Read talking to a wonderful organization, Bright & Quirky Kids, about trying not to accommodate anxiety or frustration by removing the stress. See what she has to say.