By Laura Arrick, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 2, 2016 –
As a parent of two young girls, I have mixed emotions at the beginning of the school year.
It is exciting to get back in a routine and watch their educational growth each day.
The physical, educational, and social milestones seem to pass very quickly, and seeing your child on the right track brings joy and satisfaction.
This time of year can also bring feelings of nervousness and fear. As a Youth First school social worker, I see children growing into young adults every day. They begin to develop self-esteem, question confidence in their abilities and compare themselves to their peers. These internal milestones and changes may be difficult to see in some children who need help in these areas, however.
At Youth First we feel very strongly about prevention. We work with students and families to teach coping skills and empower youth to handle their problems and emotions in a healthy, positive way. We work to foster independence and build confidence to help kids handle whatever life throws their way.
Parents should instill these skills when children are young and developing their own identity. Here are some strategies to help parents build confidence and emotional skills in their children:
Help children become problem solvers and critical thinkers. As kids grow older, move away from fixing every problem and doing everything for them. Let them succeed and fail. This will build their independence, resilience and confidence in their own abilities.
If possible, let kids make their own choices. It can be scary giving them the reins to make decisions, but involving them will build confidence and give them a sense of freedom and independence.
Trust them with responsibilities. Take some time to research appropriate responsibilities for different age groups. There are countless articles and ideas for giving children suitable chores around the home. The younger they are when you introduce these concepts, the more buy-in you will get.
Encourage children to pursue their own interests. Spend time paying attention to their strengths and help them pursue those passions. Parents want children to be involved, and they often pick activities and sports for them. This is OK as they are growing, but as they start to have their own voice, they should have more input on what extracurricular activities make them happy.
Be a good role model. Take time to think about decisions you are making, and show your children it is OK to make mistakes. Being wrong or vulnerable is not necessarily a bad thing. Children are paying attention to your reactions and responses, however.
So with the new school year just around the corner, education and social development are definitely priorities. However, let us not forget that psychological and emotional learning are just as important in shaping children to be healthy adults.