Last night at Red Hill Consolidated school, Michael Carr-Gregg spoke to parents, teachers (and this local author :–) about the prevalence of anxiety in young children and offered suggestions for addressing it.
With the lights down, I didn't get to take notes, so here are three key points that come easily to mind... (maybe because they are things I myself speak about regularly) and thought you'd like to know more about them...
1. Don't be a 'Snow Plough'.
Michael talked about the 'Snow Plough' parent. I hadn't heard that term, but I certainly know this behaviour.
Of course it's understandable for parents to be concerned about possible dangers for children however, in my opinion, it's worth considering how you can help your child to become resilient, and
handle problems and challenges, rather than trying to do that for them. And while we're on the 'snow' theme, I always thought it would have been less painful to do a face plant in the snow when
you're 4 feet closer to the ground, coated with baby blubber than when you're tall, thin and wearing spectacles :–)
Of course when I Googed 'Snow Plough' it brought up lots of reading material, including this: The Guardian in the UK shared a headline; 'Snowplough' parents risk
children unable to cope with failure.'
In the article, the Headmistress of St Paul’s girls school says that some parents try to ‘clear everything out of the way so nothing can go wrong' and there are those who have 'such high
aspirations that they are frightened of an occasion when their child may come second.'
I once heard Jack Canfield say that most parents don't wake up in
the morning and say "Now, how can we screw up our kids today?" :–) but nevertheless there are plenty of well meaning parents who are actually setting their kids up for disappointment later on, by
not allowing them to make mistakes now. The old adage 'You have to be cruel to be kind' is true, because you can't, and won't, always be there for your kids, but you can teach them how
to fend for themselves and that's one of the best gifts you can possibly ever give them.
2. Get them engaged in an activity (other than online) eg. sport, music, drama, a hobby, group activity
When kids are busy doing something positive and uplifting, they aren't getting into trouble. Sports and group activities also help children to have a sense of belonging, build up skills that help
to boost self-esteem and provide them with a positive tribe.
We know of course that kids need exercise and fresh air and any sport that gets their blood pumping and cheeks ruddy has to be good for their brain as well.
If finances are tight, then how about getting a group of local kids, and their parents, together and going for a walk, trek, adventure in the outdoors? Or maybe you could set up a 'Help a
neighbour' initiative and walk an elderly neighbour's dog, mow their lawn, do some gardening etc. You'd not only be helping your neighbour, you'd be helping your children build their physical,
and humanitarian, muscles as well.
3. Every child needs a significant adult mentor in their life.
Emily discovered that one of the main elements in creating resilience is to 'have relationships that provide care and support, create love and trust, and offer encouragement, both within and outside the family.' Having a strong bond with a nonparent caretaker (such as an aunt, babysitter, or teacher) is important as well.
This reminds me of another Jack Canfield story – about a woman who taught in a really rough inner city school in New York. Her students were, in the eyes of the community, not expected to finish
school or to make anything of their lives. But this particular group of kids went on to enjoy much success, many gaining degrees and professional careers. When asked years later, about how they
achieved so much more than others at their school, they all said; "There was this teacher..." The teacher was subsequently interviewed, and asked why she thought her students stood
out – what could she have done so differently to other teachers at that school? ... she simply said "I just loved those kids". (Ahhh :–)