Growing up: how exhausting! Childhood is likely to be remembered as the happiest period of your life and, for many reasons, we can all agree that it’s true. You just play and stay with friends without any kind of worries for study and exams or work, love, life, family, mortgages, taxes etc. etc. However, kids have their own problems that, as the years go by, look less insignificant. But you are living that moment, some problems can look like they’re huge. When we’re young we receive the first ideas about the world from the people we trust more and we spend more time with: usually, our parents. By not being able to understand a situation in its whole complexity (because, you know, we’re still young) we can make up our own ideas and formulate our theories. It goes without saying that it is really important how a message or an idea is conveyed by our parents as well as the sensations they transmit to us.
Kids are difficult from this point of view: they understand things you wish they wouldn’t but they couldn’t understand, indeed, the simplicity of other things and, so, thinking about them as big problems. For example, socializing and feeling accepted in a group is important when you’re young; probably from the primary school to the high school and even after. You can’t just say to your child that if a group of classmates don’t want to hang around with them, whatever, they will make some other friends or will stay by themselves because people are mean and real friends are few.
Some children, instead, seem to be really good at making friends because since an early age they demonstrate a charismatic personality, or they can be funny or just have the quality of a leader that is not accepted in a group but they form the group and decide who’s in and who’s out.
It is important to help self-confidence in our kids, as said, to help them avoid living social situations and a source of anxiety in the constant fear of not being “enough” to their friends. This feeling of insecurity, once created, will be difficult to escape from and will condition the attitude of the future adult in every situation during its life. At the same time, we have to find a balance and not just boast to our children repeating how marvellous and how fantastic they are. It is positively seen by society to have the qualities of an alpha man/woman but, just for the fact of being young, children could misunderstand and use their qualities in a negative way. You could find yourself dealing with the fact your kid is being bullied but also with the fact that he/she is the bully. Both these scenarios are unpleasant: they will lead to future problems that will prevent the child from living peacefully and happily in society.
What are the best things to say as a parent? We want to infuse self-confidence and calm but also talent and intelligence.
One piece of advice to give is surely to show what we would like to be emulated. If we do things with a calmness, our children will do the same; let’s not forget that they are more sensitive than what we think. The can learn and copy our methods; moreover, there are no reasons to make them paranoid about all the bad people they could meet. Just put them on guard for what concerns the real risks (“don’t accept lifts from strangers’’ or things like this) clearly explaining why that is dangerous but without going too deep in illustrating what paedophilia is, for example. Concerning other figurative risks that you might see, ask yourself if it is really fundamental to fill your child’s brain with so many worries. The answer might be: it’s not. Kids do run dangers to harm themselves when they play, when they are in the house (just think about the rate of domestic accidents)… they could bump into people with bad intentions and they need time to learn what they can do and what they can’t. So, thinking better, is it really necessary to stress them telling them about that classmate you think is envious and maybe is badmouthing them? The answer is: it’s not. We spend our entire life as adults saying that we are just what we are and we won’t change to please others. Our children should be left free to do the same.
Another thing not to do as parents is to encourage too much rivalry with the other children even if there’s something that your kid is really talented at doing and wins much more than the other children. They could find out they are much weaker in other activities and they cannot always win: teach them this or the clash with the hard truth will definitely be heavy.
In the end, another mistake that some parents can do is to project wishes and passions of their own on their kids that the parents themselves didn’t have the chance to pursue. If you were not allowed to sing because your parents wanted you to do sport, you can try to transmit your passion for music but if it’s not really a genetically transmitted talent, let it be. It is easier said than done, but do you really want to force your kids to do something they don’t really appreciate as your parents did with you?