We all want to raise resilient, confident and socially intelligent children. As a psychologist specializing in adolescent development, I have found it important for parents to provide reassurance from an early age.
Kids, especially teens and tweens, sometimes need confirmation that what they’re thinking and feeling is normal and okay. In fact, psychologists believe that validation is one of the most powerful parenting tools, and yet it is often left out of traditional behavioral training programs for parents.
Validating your child’s feelings doesn’t necessarily mean you approve or agree to the actions they take. It simply means showing that you hear, understand and accept them. This can help them effectively label their own emotions and be more in tune with their social environment, increasing emotional intelligence.
Here’s how successful parents get these important messages across during tough times:
1. They normalize experiences
Friendships help children develop important life skills, such as interacting with other people and resolving conflict. But no friendship is perfect.
Remind your child that all friendships have ups and downs. In long-term relationships, close friends inevitably occasionally disappoint, irritate, or mess up.
If your child is receptive, tell him about similar social grief his sister, cousin, or you went through at their age. These stories are irrefutable proof that they are not alone and have nothing to be ashamed of.
2. They provide physical comfort
Unless your child recoils at the touch, physical comfort can be more immediate and powerful than any verbal assurance.
Several studies have found benefits of interpersonal touch. For example, cuddling can lower blood pressure and give a sense of care and security.
Suppose your child is upset about something. Before you say a single word, you may want to rub their backs, give them a hug, or hold their hand. A fifth-grader once said to her mother, “When I’m sad, I want you to give me a big hug and say, ‘Yeah, that sucks. It’s terrible.'”
If you don’t start a conversation right away, your child will also have time to prepare to talk about his distress.
3. They learn that quality is more important than quantity
Tweens often measure their self-esteem by how many friends they have. They do not yet realize that the quality of relationships is more important. One study found that teens who had many — but more superficial — school friends became more anxious as young adults.
Plus, contrary to popular belief, being popular doesn’t relieve loneliness. Popularity, a social status driven by the exercise of power through rumors and humiliation, is inherently unstable and therefore difficult to maintain.
Reassure your child that they don’t need hundreds of friends, both on social media and in real life. A couple is enough as long as they are loyal, reliable and supportive.
Research shows that, in addition to peer acceptance, at least one strong, healthy friendship predicts both good school performance and psychological well-being (e.g., high self-esteem and less anxiety).
4. They focus on the positives
I often see children dwell on one social flaw or disappointment, which looms larger and more urgent than all the positives in their lives at that moment.
As they empathize with your child’s distress, redirecting their attention to their most recent triumphs and pleasures allows them to appreciate the bigger and brighter picture.
5. They Offer Hope
Tell your child that although they are going through a rough time now, it won’t last forever. It will be better. This is not a platitude. Social situations will change because children will change.
They just need to be patient as they and their peers mature. For example, if they try to change their friendships, remind them that it takes time to turn things around. But for now, they have control over how they act in socially challenging situations.
Studies of high school students show the value of social hope. In one study, freshmen were asked to read a short brain science article about how personality can change. Then they read anecdotes seniors had written about how they eventually learned to shrug and move on from peer conflict.
Finally, the group was asked to write encouraging advice for younger students.
After stressful conversations, the intervention group had 10% lower cortisol levels than the control group, indicating that students who read inspirational information coped better. At the end of the school year, these freshmen were 40% less likely to be depressed and have better grades than control students.
Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and speaker who specializes in women’s and teenage girls’ issues, mother-daughter relationships, parent counseling, and psychoeducational assessments. She has been featured in print at many major outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Marie Claire, and Teen Vogue. She and her husband divide her time between Connecticut and Los Angeles.
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This post Parents raising resilient, socially intelligent children do 5 things in ‘tough times’ was original published at “https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/19/psychologist-says-parents-who-raise-resilient-socially-intelligent-kids-do-5-things-during-hard-times.html”