It’s so important for him to feel confident on his own in this new environment, especially while managing food allergies.
I have several concerns running through my head: Am I instilling the values and skills he will need for his new independence? Will he be happy, comfortable and confident as he embarks on this new and important stage in his life? Am I providing the tools he needs to feel capable and ready for this big transition?
1) Building my child’s confidence.
At the heart of it, to truly feel confident in their independence, kids need to feel the same things we all need in our most important relationships: unconditional love, understanding, validation, acceptance, care and support. I believe there are some key ways that I can build a solid foundation of confidence for my kids that could really be applied to any of my relationships:
a. Build them up! Build up their self-esteem; don’t chip away at it. Support them! Praise them! Commend their efforts, focus and hard work. Be positive and encouraging. Don’t criticize or always say “no,” but rather show them what you DO want and help them learn how to do it.
b. Really listen. As I often say to my kids, “Let’s put on our listening ears, our seeing goggles and our thinking caps!” Let them know you hear them and that they are important. How? Put down that iPhone. Turn off the television. Get down to their level and look them in the eyes. Reflect back what they’re telling you.
c. Validate their feelings. Show kids you hear them and get it. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings. Try to understand them and how they’re feeling and thinking through their perspective. Include them in decision-making. Empower them to come up with solutions. If something isn’t working, ask them their opinion on how to change things. This shows them you value them, their ideas and feelings. If they are feeling it, it’s real and deserves your attention. There really is no right or wrong with feelings.
d. Show unconditional love and support. Show them and tell them how much you love them every day, no matter what is going on. Let them know you will always be there. Do something special for them to show that despite the busyness of the day, you’re thinking about them and you care.
e. Have fun together! Play! Have fun! Be silly! Help them release any scared or difficult emotions and anxieties so they can feel better, relax, have fun and connect with you.
2) Helping my child feel capable.
Another key to our children feeling confident is providing the tools and skills for them not only to be capable, but also to feel and know they are capable. I’ve really been mulling this one over. How can I do this? I think the answer lies in instilling in them a “can-do” attitude to overcome challenges they inevitably will face.
As parents and role models, a huge part of it is teaching by example. I’m really trying to walk my talk. Here are seven additional steps I’m taking:
a. Give age-appropriate tasks. A key part of feeling capable is being helped with certain tasks and then having the time and opportunity to practice. A sense of responsibility, accomplishment and independence is sure to follow.
b. Help develop the skills they will need. Help with reading, writing, art, music, sports—anything they will be doing in school—to lay a solid foundation.
c. Visualize what will happen. Find books about going to school that you can read together to visualize what will happen so they feel prepared. Or make your own book together!
d. Try new things together. Teach the beauty in trying new things and learning as a team. If they have a fear of something particular, talk about it. Help them release their fears and overcome them. Show them how.
e. Continue to reevaluate how (and if) you’re helping. Are we helping too much? Are our kids ready to try it by themselves? It could be something as simple as buckling up. I realized I was helping my son latch his seat belt every time we got into the car. Part of it was because of the time, but I also just was not thinking about it. So I started setting aside time and encouraging him to try first. Now I don’t have to maneuver myself to click in that seat belt, and the smile on his face when he hears that “click” is awesome to see.
f. Slow down! I’m trying to be mindful about what he is feeling and thinking, giving him time to learn. Show your support and help if needed, but empower them to do it on their own. Sure, this will require patience and time as they learn to master new skills in the beginning, but it’s amazing how proud and confident they will become right before your eyes!
g. Show your trust. Show them you believe they can do it. Empower them! Give them control! Give them their wings! I know; it’s easier said than done!
h. Instill a “can-do” attitude! One of my big questions is whether I’m helping my son learn resilience. I know I can’t run in to save him every time. I need to teach the value of trying. I’m giving him the help and skills he needs of course, but I’m also giving him the chance to discover he is capable of brushing himself off. Show them falling down is okay. Help them learn how to get back up. We can’t always succeed in our task, but we don’t have to throw in the towel. As my son’s Taekwondo Master says, when the going gets hard, “Turn it up!”
3. Fostering effective communication.
Of course, the key thread holding all of this together is open, mindful, nurturing and effective communication. Isn’t that the key to everything in our lives?
When we feel understood, heard, validated, loved, cared for and important, a solid foundation forms that only continues to feed and support the trust, confidence and skills our children will need to be comfortable, happy and successful.
It’s awesome when we give our children the tools they will need, and then watch them soar as we loosen the reins, isn’t it?
So, in a nutshell, I’m trying to be there, but get out of the way, if you know what I mean! I’m trying to step back. I’m trying to let go. I’m trying to show my kids I believe they are capable and can do it.
In turn, it is my hope they not only will be capable but they will feel capable, and their self-confidence and self-esteem will flourish.
How have you prepared your children for school? How do you help build their confidence and self-esteem? We’d love to hear from you. Sharing is caring! 🙂
Image credit: Dennis Kuvaev at www.shutterstock.com.