All Children Bounce Back
Oftentimes we parents worry about how our children will embrace the challenges of their lives in a healthy way.
“Will she survive the school year with this teacher?”
“How will he deal with bullying on the bus?”
“What if my eighth-grader doesn’t get the class job she’s been wanting for so many years?”
“What if my child fails the entrance exam for high school?”
Rechanneling Worry About Our Children’s Challenges
And so, we spend useless time thinking about how our children will deal with the challenges they face. It’s literally wasted time that we could use to do something productive (such as bringing more joy to our families or to the world, or even to take better care of ourselves), because nobody ever had anything productive emerge from needless worrying.
So, we have two questions here:
- What do we DO with that worry?
- How do we feel okay knowing that our children are experiencing certain challenges?
Let’s discuss the answer to question #1 first.
What do we do with any feeling? Well, who ever said that we have to DO something about a feeling? Thinking that we need to do something actually makes the uncomfortable feeling grow into very, very uncomfortable feelings. Recently a cute little eight-year-old neighbor asked me how he can fall asleep at night when he feels so afraid. I gave him a tip or two, and then he came back the next day to say, “It didn’t work. I’m still afraid.” I asked him if he thought feeling afraid was a problem, and he said yes, so I then told him that his exciting new homework will be to let go of that unhelpful thought that it’s a problem to feel uncomfortable.
It is OK to Feel Uncomfortable and to Live with Challenges
People often wonder why decades ago children were emotionally stronger. While there may be a number of explanations, perhaps people in those days knew that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to have to work hard. It’s not a problem to have a disappointment, it’s just an inconvenience. It’s okay to not like a certain teacher’s style of teaching, and still thrive in learning for an entire school year. The list of challenges in any child’s life can range from minor to tragic, but the key attitude we want to give over to our children is that we don’t have to DO anything about our uncomfortable feelings. Start by modeling to your children that when you feel disappointed, worried, hurt, or annoyed you do not believe that’s a problem. It’s just a feeling, and feelings are a very healthy part of the human experience. You can verbalize out loud, “Right now I am feeling very ___,” without yelling, controlling, or doing anything.
To answer question #2, let’s clarify the purpose of all challenges. They are designed for us uniquely by Hashem because we actually need them. While we certainly pray not to have them, the reality is that when challenges do show up, an attitude of growth can make them all that much easier to endure. That means that if your child is waiting for an acceptance letter to high school, he or she (and you) actually needs that challenge in order to reach their potential. So, instead of thinking, “How will my child handle this?” you can alternatively think, “This is rough, and I wonder how I as a parent can grow from this. Perhaps this is an opportunity to thoroughly internalize that my child’s value does not depend on whether or not he or she is accepted to a certain school.”
When your big children experience challenges, remember that resilience is one of the default settings of every human being. When your child was a baby and was learning to walk, and fell, he or she just got up and tried again. Resilience is not something you have to teach your children because it’s already inside them. All they need is to see that we believe the resilience is there, and that will help them tap into it to best grow from any challenges that do come their way. Lead your children on a journey of embracing life, with all its gifts and challenges.