With all the disruptions and frustrations we are all facing today, it isn’t surprising kids feel it too. According to an article in the NY Times,
“the mental health impact on parents remains significant and shows no signs of relenting... Research from the American Psychological Association showed that in April and May, parents with children at home under 18 were markedly more stressed than non-parents”
8 months later and there is no sign that things are improving. In fact, they are getting worse. I repeatedly hear the same questions from parents like Joel Fox:
"How can I raise a confident, responsible and resilient child in this chaotic schooling environment that we have?"
To raise a confident child, the most empowering thing you can do is to trust them, model respect for them and their ideas, and encourage them to try new things and revise them if they fail the first time. It sounds simple, too simple and many people will just ignore it, but it works. Try it and see for yourself. This holds true for all ages, but especially for kids in elementary and middle school who tend to need the most guidance.
Kids form self opinions early and if they believe they “can do it,” they will, especially if someone they respect like a parent, teacher or close family friend believes in them. At home, children get their self image from their parents' trust and respect for them.
If you have a child who is fearful and afraid to take risks, you may want to re-examine some of the messages you are giving them. Are you encouraging them to try whatever they are interested in and should they fail, suggesting they try again to see if they can do better?
Kids who see their parents coping well--or at least coping--with their online office are more likely to follow the model and cope well in their online school. The pandemic offers us an opportunity to show kids what grit really is. We can model it and we can also model how we adapt to challenges.
Leah Katz, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist wrote in Psychology Today 7 ideas for how you can develop grit which is so relevant today.
1. Pinpoint what you value. What gives you a sense of purpose and puts a bounce in your step? It’s sobering how so many of us are living lives that are not in sync with our deepest and truest path. If we don’t know tangibly what it is we cherish, how can we acquire a sense of passionate purpose? Look at the different domains of your life such as family, friends, career, leisure, and spirituality, and find what gives you a sense of meaning in each category.
2. Take small steps to prevent burnout. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, grit doesn’t develop by biting off more than we can chew and sizzling out as a result. It’s taking small baby steps in pursuit of your goals. Focus on the journey rather than the outcome. Celebrate and learn to redefine small successes. In this vein, even a rejection letter can be viewed as a triumph because it reflects effort and is a conduit in developing resilience.
3. See failure as a gift. When we fall off the horse, or we’re thrown off track by some other force (I’m talking to you, coronavirus), in shifting our mindset from one of helplessness to one of hopefulness, we can develop grit. How do we do this? Look at failure or a setback as an opportunity to grow. Because it is. We all know the famous quotes (see the one by Nelson Mandela above as an example) and statistics about how some of the most accomplished people showed tremendous resilience and grit by failing over and over again until they found success.
4. Find balance. It’s good to be gritty, but don’t make it all about the grit. Take a breather. Go for a walk. Watch a sunrise or a sunset. Start a brainless book or color. Find how you can ground yourself and relax so that you don’t grind yourself to the ground. We all need leisure and relaxation to provide a counterbalance to toughness and hard work.
5. Create a community of people who share the value of grit. There is a popular quote by motivational speaker Jim Rohn that says we are the average of the five people we surround ourselves with most. Science corroborates that we are most definitely affected by those around us. We tend to mirror other people’s emotions. If we are with happy people, we feel happier. Sad people, we feel sadder. It’s a logical derivative then, to say, if we surround ourselves with gritty people, we get grittier. Pause here for a moment and think about who you most interact with. Are they gritty? Try to spend time with people who share this value. Their tenacity will rub off on you, inspire you, and help keep you on track.
6. Remember times when you’ve been gritty and hold on to this when you’re in a slump. Creating a gritty narrative for yourself will take you far. If you remember times when you’ve had to work hard and stay focused to accomplish something important to you, you’ll know you have it in you to meet your current situation. Not only that, but remember how you felt during and after times you were gritty. Tapping into these feelings of empowerment and capability that come with accomplishing difficult tasks become intrinsic motivators.
7.Being gritty is not the same thing as being harsh with yourself. You can do all of the above with an air of self-directed kindness and generosity.
Great suggestions from Dr. Katz. Also remember that kids who have high self respect are the ones who are most able to be confident, resilient kids and have grit. Self respect is basically belief in yourself and self love which is the most important feeling you can give your child.
We want them to feel loved no matter what they did. No kid does everything right. In fact, most of the time they do everything wrong and have to do it again. Patience is a wonderful gift you can give kids and yourself. Working on being patient with our kids and patient with ourselves makes a difference and self love helps us forgive ourself and get through these difficult times.