5 Tips For Parents To Equip Their Kids With Life Skills
I really believed when I was smack in the trenches of arguing with my husband about my displeasure over him buying the no-frills diapers, since my kids ALWAYS leaked through them, that once the stage of my kids being completely dependent on me for their basic needs was done I’d be in the home stretch. I thought those early years- getting up at the crack of 2 am to heat up a bottle (which I only realized after my second baby was as simple as popping a cup of water into the microwave as opposed to boiling hot water over an open flame for 20 minutes) was the grueling part of motherhood. But the thing is, during all those early years, motherhood’s challenges are primarily physical.
They test your endurance, school you on how to be a muti-tasker and at times make you feel like you are operating on auto-pilot. But your kids -unless they’re dragging around a soiled diaper- are for the most part happy, smiling little babes, who let you dress them up and create your very own mirror image in them.
Then they grow up, and of course no one tells you that the real meat and work begins then. As my kids have gotten older, the questions that seemingly come out of nowhere have begun to permeate our every conversation at this breakneck pace, and my inability to keep up and juggle all their feelings, thoughts, self-esteem issues, confidence and little egos feels like a balancing act that is simply impossible.
I often feel ill-equipped to be the source for all these pressing concerns like; who am I to answer all these questions, assuage their fears, and am I enough to be able to raise these two individuals and arm them with everything they’ll ever need to become independent enough to feel okay on their own. And I know I’m not alone in these thoughts, in my insecurities about motherhood. But honestly I just wish there was a manual that would fool-proof every impulse I have and make sure it was the correct one. The truth about motherhood is that no one tells you what an awesome responsibility it is- and that there are no guarantees it will all end up the way you want it to.
So I asked Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit, educational organization behind Sesame Street, which recently kicked off its newest outreach initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges, for military, veteran, and general public families with young children to help increase self-awareness, boost self-esteem, and help children persevere through changes to offer parents like me some guidance!
What are some of the important issues affecting kids today?
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt: Today’s children face all types of challenges, some smaller and occurring during everyday moments and others that are significantly more challenging and longer in duration.
Resilience is really the important factors that will allow children to confront the variety of challenges that will come across a lifetime in positive ways. Especially important for young children (preschoolers), is the opportunity to use simple, everyday challenges such as learning to share at the playground or transitioning from playing to the night’s bedtime routine, as ways to build children’s resilience skills. As Masten describes, "Resilience doesn't come from rare and special qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources in the minds, brains, and bodies of children, in their families and relationships, and in their communities." Our goal with our newest outreach initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges is to help families support children through big and small changes and transitions. We all need a helping hand sometimes, and we encourage the adults in children’s lives to be that helping hand, by providing families with simple tools that can help them build resilience skills no matter what challenge might come their way.
How can parents instill confidence in their kids?
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt: Modeling confidence is the very first thing we can do to nurture a positive self-image in our children. In this initial stage of the project, we encourage children and their families to use our What We Are anthem song and other resources to reflect on positive words that describe them. The song highlights that children and adults are determined, loved, giving, and special. Words are so powerful; when children can talk about how they feel, they are able to find positive ways to process and express their emotions.
Too often setting this foundation is not considered as essential for the early years, but in fact it is the prime time to do so. The resources are a start for parents to foster children’s confidence, the ability to persevere (or continuing to try despite not initially succeeding), and ways to learn different vocabulary that expresses a wide variety of emotions. They include videos, tips, and printables that use the power of the Sesame Street Muppets to engage both children and adults alike.
What is the benefit of reaching kids at the preschool level in helping combat future problems?
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt: Research has emphasized the importance of early childhood as a time for promoting resilience. Developing effective skills to cope with stressful situations at early stages in children’s development can have a significant impact on children’s well-being and their future success in all areas of life.
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt's Top 5 Tips to enable parents to equip their kids with life skills?
#1 Start by providing your child with words to express her feelings. Help your child label her emotions, while describing why you think she might feel “frustrated” or “furious”. Being able to talk about her feelings will help your child feel empowered.
#2 Let your child know that it’s important to give things a try. Show your child that it can take time and perseverance to solve a problem, but also highlight all of the things he has accomplished by trying something new.
#3 Help your child see mistakes as a natural part of the learning process. We all make mistakes and can learn so much when things do not go our way.
#4 Try to praise your child’s efforts as specifically as possible. Follow “I am proud of you” with something your child has done that deserves praise, such as helping a friend or sharing with others.
#5 Help your child recognize the trusted adults that can provide help when he needs it most. Let your child know that throughout good times and bad times, he is not alone.