Your child gloriously cruises through pre-K addition then hits a log jam of despair with third grade division. Or your teen worries how to navigate the maze of hallways and peers in a new middle school. Parents try a loving, rational approach to children's challenges and help them develop actionable coping strategies. Praise effort over outcome to cultivate a growth mindset and build resilience through struggle and setbacks.
Build Brainpower: Children may want to shrink inward in facing academic, social and extracurricular challenges, quietly deciding that they're inadequate. So help them embrace the challenge as a means to build problem-solving skills and even brainpower. Messymotherhood.com contrasts a fixed mindset focused on outcome and a growth mindset focused on effort to learn a new skill or tackle a problem from different directions to figure it out, fostering lifelong learners who overcome obstacles. “ Our kids need to know they can have a problem and work their way through it. And if they struggle now when the stakes are low, they will gain the confidence they need to work through tough problems and survive it.”
Positive Psychology calls it cerebral strength training. “Just like when you lift weights, when you exercise your brain, it will get bigger and stronger. Kids with a growth mindset have a 'can do' attitude. They often see challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.”
Connecticutchildrens.org explains a fixed mindset child doesn't want to try again after failure to not hurt the ego. But the growth mindset child learns from failures " for motivation going forward." "If they want to become a better singer, encourage them to audition for a solo. Treat criticism positively and promote it as a teaching moment," it says. “With practice our children might start to look at the world in a more positive light and see themselves with more confidence in their abilities.”
So whether mastering an aerial or conquering calculus, children need support to catch their breath and skillfully climb these hills and mountains.
Reset, Breathe and Destress: The American Psychological Association recommends more sleep -- as in 9-12 hours for ages 6-12 and 8-10 for teens. Exercise daily and talk out stressful situations with a trusted adult for better perspective and solutions. Take time for joyful activities and go green with nature therapy to reduce anxiety and depression. Write out stressors and positive feelings to improve wellbeing. Let kids figure out solutions and teach them to be savvy digital consumers.
Baseball coach David Klein recommends distressed players reset by walking off frustration, visualizing success and standing tall to feel confident. Or "close your eyes and think of a person, place or thing that relaxes you or brings you joy." In NPR, Dr. Lisa Miller stresses cultivating children's spirituality since “having a strong spiritual core protects adolescents against depression, substance abuse and risk-taking.”
The Pennington Post offers soul soothers like deep breaths with hands up, jumping jacks, walking and talking outside, cloud watching on the grass, or breaking out the board game.
Pacify and Prepare: To healthfully manage bigger (and every day) changes from a move to divorce, Big Life Journal advises to help children understand feelings and prepare for changes gradually, such as visiting a new house before moving. "Putting a name to their feelings makes it less overwhelming and easier to manage when possible. Give strategies to handle some of the more challenging aspects of the new situation." Stick to routines like bedtime and nutritious mealtime to provide consistency. Let your child make decisions and reflect on how he grew stronger through past changes. Above all, "reassure your child that your love and care will remain consistent, making it much easier to cope with changes in other aspects of life."