I’m typing quickly to try and get this up before internet goes off again! Please feel free to carry on commenting and such but please don’t be offended if I don’t reply straight away. I’m waiting for an engineer to come and deal with the phone line, sorry for any disruption. 😦
I want to talk to you about all the horrible news stories that talk about teen depression and suicide rates and how to combat the growing problems. This may well take a few posts as it’s a big topic, so here we go with part one.
Children need the confidence to stand up for themselves and stand out in this world, they need to know their opinion matters and that other people’s opinion has a limited impact.
There are many ways to enhance this point of view without making them egotistic and it does not mean that a naturally introverted child has to shout from the rooftops, just have a quiet confidence in themselves.
So practically, what can we do to teach the kids in our lives?
- Praise. Not in the false sing-song voice (especially for older kids because they’ll see right through it) but a genuine ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ and explain what you’re proud of/why that thing helped. Even 2 and 3-year-olds understand the concept of helping others and feel a sense of pride. You’re not wasting time explaining to them why it was good because it’s proven they understand twice as much as they can say.
- Give them choices. Obviously, these may need guidance to start with; give a young child a whole wardrobe to choose from and they won’t necessarily pick the most appropriate outfit, but you can give them the choice out of 2 or 3 options. As they get older they can choose their style (within reason) and how to spend their money or even where to live (when they leave home or go to university). Choices now help them make wise decisions when they’re older.
- Let them know their opinion matters. Start with the choices above, ask their opinions about news or a family situation, where to go on holiday or anything else you can think of. If there’s a big decision to make, like them going to a party alone or picking a college then discuss it calmly: You have a right to your opinion and they should respect that, but they are entitled to theirs too. It is them who have to live with it. Guide but don’t force.
- Their uniqueness is to be valued. Perhaps the best lesson to teach them is also one of my favourite Bible verses: Do not conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2). Everyone is unique and everyone has a special set of skills or a job to do, no matter how old. Don’t show them how to keep up with the Jones’; money doesn’t matter, being silly in public is OK, show them the value of any role they can have, no matter how small. Teach them to go against the flow.
- Rules: Fair rules set them up to make good choices in the future. If the rules are too strict they’ll rebel and do the opposite- just look at all the young Disney stars who were the perfect kids on-screen and then did playboy-type photos or took drugs as young adults…it’s just a more extreme version of pushing the boundaries like toddlers do. Fair rules also allow them to learn to make wise choices. When my daughter started secondary school we told her if she wasn’t going to be home by 4, she should call us. If she didn’t there would be consequences. Even though she’s older now and I don’t worry so much, she still rings. In fact one day last year she called at 4 on the dot to tell me she was running late; she was literally at the top of the road by the shop, if I stand on the front step I can see the shop! I was amused as it’s rare that I’m the least worried one but also proud that she remembered a rule we haven’t even mentioned for a year or two. It does stay with them.
- Trust. With the above example, I know I can trust my daughter. If she broke that trust at any time there would be consequences but also an explanation. As with the praise point at the beginning, they need to know why. Explain to them what is wrong, the consequences and how you feel/how it impacts others…. shouting “don’t do that again” gives them no reasoning to learn and no incentive to do better. If they prove themselves trustworthy, then give them more choices and responsibility. Basically, they need enough freedom and responsibility to become a functioning adult.
So, that’s probably enough for now, I hope it helps us all to stop and think. How we talk to our children is how they will talk to others. If they learn no skills from us, they cannot be expected to be responsible adults. Let go a little more and give them the opportunity to live up to it.
Have a great day peeps!