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Article contributed by guest author, Dana Baker-Williams.
As parents, the tween to teen years can be painful to watch. Everything starts to change all at once. You have puberty setting in which shows up both physically and emotionally. Talking over dinner, watching them start thinking more, and conversing more can be lovely and fun. Until it's not.
Social media, online ads, and glossy magazines make being a teenager look easy. We see laughing, beautiful kids, surrounded by friends. But that’s not always real life; in fact it usually isn’t these days. Between the social and physical stressors there is academics, world peace and Covid to contend with.
What they need to navigate through all of this is resilience. Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ after difficult times. It’s also the ability to adapt to difficult circumstances that you can’t change and keep on thriving. In fact, when you’re resilient, you often learn from difficult situations. How do we help them build that, though?
Keeping communication channels open and being a safe place for them to put their concerns and emotions is really important. Even though your tweens and teens are establishing their independence, they still need to know that you are there to help and support them.
Another way you can do that is by encouraging that independence. Trying—and sometimes failing--is how they learn that they are strong and can handle things when they don’t go as planned. We need to teach them how to have a growth mindset, balance emotions, reframe how they look at negative events and embrace who they are.
Self-respect and self-compassion are great building blocks for resilience. Part of that is validating their feelings and letting them talk about them and then manage them. They will learn that anxiety, fear and anger won’t last forever. We should also work with our children on how to problem-solve. When they can problem-solve for themselves, that gives them a success to look back on. It lets them know their strength and capabilities. We want to focus on small things, set them up for successes and then celebrate those successes. When they succeed--be it sports or academics or anything else, they build confidence.
If you are a perfectionist, try to squelch that a bit. Chances are high that you will either pass that behavior on to your child, or they will feel judged or defeated if they let you down. Mistakes are literally how we learn–they are information. It’s so important to encourage our kids to try new things, take small risks. But they won’t do that if they are afraid to get something wrong–or to find their limits and have you see they aren’t perfect. When they don’t reach the mark, help them get there — praise their progress and encourage them to finish successfully. When we back down, they step up!
A child’s self-esteem flourishes when they feel fully supported and safe and loved no matter what they do. We show them their intrinsic value when we validate, trust and accept them for who they are regardless of their strengths and weaknesses. If they know you will always be there to love them and catch them when they fall, they will be much more able to take risks and strive for whatever star they want to reach. That resilience helps reduce the risk of anxiety and depression; and honestly, we just all need it to get through life and thrive.
About the author: Dana Baker-Williams, founder of Parenting in Real Life
Dana is an insightful, savvy, and accessible Coach. She helps families understand and navigate ADHD and Anxiety. Dana supports families around the world manage mental health concerns, improve communication, and find positive, respectful solutions to the ups and downs of family dynamics. Dana's background in mental health helps her put your child's behavior in context, identifying "typical" stages of development vs. behavior that may be a sign of a more complex issue. https://www.linkedin.com/in/parentinginreallife/