Summer break is drawing to a close, and kids are getting back to school. We all see so many of the happy pictures of our friend’s kids standing outside with their signs that show what grade they are going into.
Happy faces as they get on the bus or are dropped off at school. Pictures of kids as they get off the bus at the end of their first day at school….with happy dazed faces shining brightly.
But my good friend brought up an excellent point today. What if your child isn’t happy? See….my friend’s child isn’t starting off the year happy about her teacher and the friends she is going to spend time with in class.
Many of her closest friends were all placed into one teacher’s classroom as she entered a different classroom. She does have a close friend with her, but she was so hoping to be in the other class that happened to also be Harry Potter themed. Her class has no theme and lots of boys. UGG!
Life happens right? But this wasn’t the way she or her parents thought she’d be starting off a new school year. Sad!
My friend first told her daughter that when she got older, this would mean nothing. She would look back on it as a character building year, where she learned more than ever and was able to focus on school work more because distractions were at a minimum.
When that didn’t work, she pointed out how fun it can be to make friends with boys and that it might pay off when she needs a good friend who is the opposite sex as they get older.
But then, she realized….none of that was helping. How do you help your child fix an unfixable problem?
When our children have problems we all try and often fail at helping them solve them. But in this day and age… when parents are being called things like “helicopter parents” …there is a fine balance between helping and not helping your child with solving their problems.
See…the truth is….it can seem like a scary world out there. The truth is we all want our kids to have the best possible chance in life. But we also are inundated with stories that frankly freak me and other parents I know out.
It is easy to correlate the idea of good coping skills with the idea that your child may have less need for alcohol and drug use in school or later in life….or may be less prone to seeking attention online that could get them into trouble with bullies and possible predators.
But what is the standard for letting your kid figure something out on their own as opposed to trying to help them? How much harm is done and what is the barometer for knowing when to step in and give advice as opposed to just listening.
Deborah Gilboa, M.D., founder of AskDoctorG.com talks about how not to be a helicopter parent in an article featured on parents.com http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/what-is-helicopter-parenting/
So how can a parent love and care for their children without inhibiting their ability to learn important life skills? Dr. Gilboa offers this advice: “As parents, we have a very difficult job. We need to keep one eye on our children now–their stressors, strengths, emotions–and one eye on the adults we are trying to raise. Getting them from here to there involves some suffering, for our kids as well as for us.” In practical terms, this means letting children struggle, allowing them to be disappointed, and when failure occurs, helping them to work through it. It means letting your children do tasks that they are physically and mentally capable of doing. Making your 3-year-old’s bed isn’t hovering. Making your 13-year-old’s bed is. As Dr. Gilboa says, “Remembering to look for opportunities to take one step back from solving our child’s problems will help us build the reliant, self-confident kids we need.”
Back to my friend’s daughter, who started her first day sad and came off the bus at the end of the day without a smile on her face I can tell you that all my friend could do, and all that worked was just listening to her daughter.
Often we catastrophize a problem, and our children feel it and do the same. In this case, this problem wasn’t solvable. There is no switching classes or moving rooms. The only thing that can be done is reminding her that everything will be ok and listening.
My friend’s daughter is working through this problem and she will come out on the other side a stronger person. Sometimes just being there is the only way to help our children solve their own problems.