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It’s one thing to say that you want your children to experience challenges, but it’s quite another to sit tight while they struggle through difficult times. Recently our family made a cross-country move that landed my 10- and 8-year-old sons 2,500 miles from home, in a new house and a new school. I had to steel myself for the tears, but I knew that if I taught the kids to gracefully take on challenges, I’d be giving them a great gift.
In fact, “taking on challenges” is one of the seven life skills that child development expert Ellen Galinsky touts in Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. In her chapter on this topic, Galinsky talks about how though our natural instinct may be to shield kids from struggle, we’re better off teaching them coping strategies. No kid can make it through life stress-free and, as kids get older, Ellen advises that they should become increasingly involved in solving their own problems.
At first, my younger son, Hank, couldn’t seem to cope. But slowly, and I think because I didn’t immediately jump in to solve his problems, Hank started creating his own solutions. To ward off loneliness and boredom, he started a lemonade stand. When a neighbor boy stopped by to check it out, they forged a business partnership — and a budding friendship. A week later, Hank decided that he wanted to try something else new — skateboarding! — and found himself with an invitation to a birthday party at a bona fide skateboard park a few weeks later. And this set off a chain reaction, as Hank became open to finding the positive in his new experience.
Here are some techniques that you can apply to help your own kids cope with change:
Have your children been presented with a challenging situation or a big change? What did you do to help them cope?