| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 8/17/2021|
Imagine this. A child who is afraid of the dark and has begun to form a negative pattern of fear-based inclinations. What is a parent to do? In this particular situation, there are often two routes one can take: you can teach the child to gradually overcome the fear by facing it head on. This may be uncomfortable at first, but the child will learn to develop a strong self-talk routine to overcome and transform negative emotions into positive thoughts in the long run, which will result in a lifelong skill and benefit. Or, you can teach the child to nurture the fear through consistent avoidance, an understandable choice no doubt, but this will stunt the child's ability to foster resilience to overcome adversity, which is a fundamental life skill. I think the choice is obvious for parents. Perhaps, that explains why a wise father said to his young son who doesn't like to sleep with the lights off: "The light is within you." Then, he turns off the bedroom's lights to help his son practice becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. Emotional regulation must be taught; students cannot learn it by themselves. This may be the most vital lesson that your child will carry throughout his life. If you would like to teach your child how to deal with their negative emotions during life's difficulties, you can incorporate the three steps below flexibly into your daily routine.
Step 1: Transformative Reflection
You can ask your child to reflect the day by asking them how was their day, which prompts them to narrate it and process their experiences. Pay attention to their narration, spot negative feelings, and help them remedy and transform those unhealthy thoughts by sharing how you had overcome similar situations. For example, if your child complains about a difficult teacher, then you can share that because you had a difficult English teacher and thanks to her rigorous training and high standards, you had won a college scholarship. The positive stories could be about you or someone you know, but the primary purpose of the tale is to change the child's negative mentality into a healthy frame of mind and see a bigger purpose in their experiences. It will also teach the student to look at things from multiple perspectives.
Step 2: Ask The Right Questions
As students grow and transition from elementary school to high school, they are forced to navigate complex life situations both personally and academically. They need guidance in asking the right questions to make healthy decisions with and without their parents. The best way to model this is when you make family decisions together discuss different scenarios in terms of questions. For instance, is it better to use an alarm clock to wake up by yourself or have mom wake you up every day? Though mom doesn't mind because you love your kid, but you can talk about the benefits of learning to wake up independently and why that is useful for future summer camps and summer jobs, and let's face it prepare your kid to make the right decisions when you can't be right next to them. It is hard to think like that, but it's the best legacy to leave your kid with: Your values and your ethics. Your child will need that moral compass to make decisions that they and you can be proud of. Another possible scenario may be, Jake, you already have close to 30 pairs of sneakers, wouldn't it be great to donate 2 pairs to needy kids? Don't you want to make a difference in someone's life? This works great especially when your child has seen you practice the act of charity. Teaching your student how to be compassionate towards others mean they will know how to be compassionate towards their parents, siblings, and themselves, thereby can weather life's ups and downs with more self-compassion and emotional intelligence.
Step 3: Learn From Your/ Someone's Experience
Casual, but consistent conversations with your child will serve as great teachable moments. It is almost like always sneaking the moral of the story into everyday dialogues. It can be fun too. This works incredibly well with characters in tv shows. If you have a family show you watch together, this is a great conversation starter. For example, you can discuss the peer pressure in the show 13 Reasons Why and then segue-way into asking your child what are some positive ways they think the main character should have responded or get help? Then, you can compare answers and give your child one or two important takeaways. Avoid negating difficult topics, it actually helps students build resilience by asking the hard questions, as long as you ensure your child walks away with a warm message and some deep learning, it will deepen their understanding of themselves and their surroundings. Consequently, these very lessons will prove useful when they need tools to deal with future difficulties. You never know when a situation knocks on their door, so you want to give them a toolkit so they have it to use when they need guidance. Be that divine voice. If your child is not into tv shows, you can also share a time when you made a mistake and how you turned things around, you can make the scenario similar to what your child is going through, then you can also deepen the bond with your child and at the same time help them learn to do things differently next time.
Emotional health is equally important as mental health. A student who knows how to manage his emotions will persevere and even thrive despite the trials and tribulations of life. For more than a year, a great educational disruption has upended students' emotional and academic lives, I believe many students are in need of an emotional toolkit to weather this storm in order to find peace, patience, and confidence in themselves and others around them. Inner resilience is not a new concept, but our teaching about it to students should be renewed to readily respond to the current global crisis and most importantly for your child's future well-being.
Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed.
I am a licensed professional educator, executive function expert, former tenured high school teacher and college instructor with 16 years experience. I am also a student success designer. I enjoy recognizing the missing puzzle in the student's learning and personalizing that solution in a language that is unique to that student. I love the creative challenge of inventing a new language for every child.