Last week’s post discussed the theory that when children are asked to be resilient, they are asked to just get along. In such cases, children are not given the platform to THRIVE. But sometimes, even when parents and grandparents are doing everything they can to offer love, security, belonging, and stimulation–life intrudes, life that adults can’t control or maybe shouldn’t control. Because the term “helicopter parents”, that has come into the lexicon since I was parented and since I raised my children has many arguments against it. If parents intervene too often for their children, how will those children learn to live in the world?
Children’s Fears by Age Group
No one can live in a bubble and be normal. Children must learn to adjust to the fears they are certain to have, says Dr. Tamar E. Chansky,PhD, who identifies fears for certain ages. Infants and toddlers are afraid of loud noises, strangers, and separation. In the preschool years fears include the dark, monsters and ghosts, dogs and other animals. Once children enter school, fears might include snakes and spiders, storms and other natural disasters, being home alone, a cross teacher, frightening news or TV shows, fear of failure or rejection and illness, injury, doctors, immunizations and death.
Play Is Mini Groundwork for the Future
But as kids we do learn to combat some of our fears. Isn’t that why we ran around the neighborhood pretending that a group of kids from the other block was chasing us or we created games that pitched one group, cops, against another, robbers? Creating and relieving tension seems to be part of a child’s play-world: hide and seek, frozen tag, dodge ball–any game where for minutes or more one child is set apart from the herd and has to be strong or smart, show his or her stuff. Stand alone. My friend Jean and I dealt with fears by creating fantasy. We pretended the rock garden in her yard was really boiling oil and on any given day we pushed imaginary monsters and enemies into that scalding pit. And then went home for lunch.
I remember vividly Bing Gallagher falling down our steps and breaking his arm, a compound fracture, not pleasant to see and his howls hard to forget. And there was Shep, a dog in the neighborhood that terrified me when I rode my bike by his fence. Lucky for me, he never got out, but the old woman who owned him shouted at me when I rang her doorbell, asking to play with her grandson. Another neighbor came out regularly to yell at me and Jean if we disturbed the gravel in her driveway. Small stuff, I know. But when you’re a kid, stuff sticks. We gave those adults a wide berth for years. No wonder children in households prone to yelling, violence and drunken behaviors have trouble sleeping, eating, determining who to trust. And of course they will have a much harder time thriving. Because how much can we really ask of a child when we state: “He’ll be okay. Children are resilient.”
Owning Your Past
My friend, Sara, recently shared on Facebook the following–which certainly applies here and which will stay with me for a long time. The other lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change what you don’t own – meaning, if you blame others – people or circumstances – for your situation, you can’t change it because you’re saying it’s not within your control. Once I learned that, life really changed for the better. I love this. I think it speaks for all of us who have carried some doubts, fears, hurts, angers into our adulthood. Sara did. And yet she realized that in order to THRIVE, rather than just get along, she had to stop blaming something or someone in her past. She realized that NOW she could change her life, if she owned everything about it and accepted it, because once she owned it, her past, her very life was under her control. Sara discovered that she was the source of her decisions–and wow she’s done great things. I so admire that.
Giving and Getting Love and Trust
We all want those we love, our children and grandchildren, to thrive. Often we struggle to make sure that they don’t have to “be resilient” in the face of life events that happen to us: death, divorce, job loss, chronic illness, death. But when those events rip into the fabric of our lives, hopefully we have given those we love a firm foundation. Because any human who has in their past the experience of loving and being loved, of trusting and be able to trust a parent or relative, or maybe a teacher or counselor–that human can overcome and like Sara, own their life and therefore control it.
Moving into the Future
So what’s the plan? How can we begin this very moment to insure that the people we love, or the children and grandchildren who rely on us, are going to thrive and not just get along? We can: be with them totally, unencumbered by distraction, giving them our whole attention; we can be “real” for them, encouraging imagination (if it’s a child) or listening to their problems at work or in their relationships (if this person is an adult.) We need to BE IN THE MOMENT for that loved one as often as possible.
Life Slips Away
Because some day, and it has already happened to me, you might pick up a tattered copy of GOODNIGHT MOON, or hear the lullaby that you sang to your child, and just wonder–when was the last time I read this to my son, sang this to my daughter; or when was the last time I pushed my son in his stroller or walked my daughter into school. BECAUSE WE DON’T remember! One day that event occurs and then–it stops, the book goes on a shelf, the lullaby is no longer sung, the stroller languishes in the garage, the child doesn’t want you to walk her anywhere.
It’s life. It’s change. But when you’re older, and your children are pushing strollers or reading that book, singing that song–you’ll know you DONE GOOD. They are thriving, your grandchildren are thriving, because of your attention, your love and your belief that the burden of life should not be a child’s, until they are old enough and strong enough to carry it. Let’s not ask them to be resilient, if we can carry the load.
Thanks to Google Images