Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Coping with our children's disappointments
How do you cope when your kids are finding life hard? They're left out from a social event that all their friends are invited to? They are in a new class with none of their old friends? I've had a few of these situations to cope with in the last month. Tricky stuff.
The beginning of each school year and the establishing of school classes gives me an insight into how some parents respond to the ups and downs of their children's lives. My friend was telling me about her school when the classes were announced on the first day of school. There were murmurs of approval or disapproval across the school hall as parents felt happy or sad about the teacher their child had been given. I witnessed a similar process myself, where parents were either waving thumbs up at other mums across the room or grimacing if they were unhappy.
At one level, I think it is great that parents are this involved with their kids. They are concerned for the well-being and happiness of their children. I'm interested in that too. I feel deeply sad when things aren't going well for my child.
But is the solution for me to grimace my disapproval in a public forum? To start complaining loudly? For my kids to see and hear? They pick up on everything. If I respond negatively it can compound their anxiety even more. I tend to err on the side of seeing how difficult situations play out. Often I've been surprised by my kids who manage to be more resilient in a challenging situation than I'd expected. And hopefully it teaches them how to be content in circumstances they aren't thrilled about.
We can't always protect our kids from situations or people that they don't like. And it isn't actually helpful for our kids for us to take hard experiences away by jumping in, rescuing them or allowing them to hide from these problems. But it is hard for us to see them go through it.
Maybe it goes back to us as parents being the safe place for them. So that at the end of the day, when life is hard, we love them, respect them, listen to them and are generally FOR them. We provide stability and security. We offer sympathy and advice. But I don't think taking away all the hard stuff is the best way to love them.
PS The photo is of my 11yo at school camp last year, just as he was about to go on a giant swing. He told me he was terrified at this point, but thrilled with himself afterwards for conquering his fear. A concrete example of a positive outcome from a challenging situation.