As a parent there is a laundry list of skills I want to teach my child and future children. How to read, how to write, tie their shoe laces, share, etc. but having a discussion with a close girlfriend of mine made me think more into this especially after having my son Maximus.
My girlfriend is a social worker and she works with children from toddlers to adolescents and has seen some crazy and very sad situations over the years. But the one thing she said that has surprised me (and her) is “There is no rhyme or reason to the children I have come into contact with their problems. I have seen poor children all the way to rich children with or without loving homes and some still end up in trouble or with issues.” I think most people (I should never generalize I know) would think “Of course someone from a broken family or a poverty-stricken area will have more problems!” but talking to my girlfriend some of the children she has seen are from “upstanding” well off families as well.
So as a new parent I ask myself what do I want for my children, what do I want them to be? My first responses before children were to be successful in whatever they chose and to be happy. But now after discussing with my girlfriend over the years I realize that I want my child to have strong coping skills.
Coping skills? I know, I know it sounds weird but hear me out. Yes, I want my child to be happy but let’s be honest: YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY ALL OF THE TIME AND LIFE CAN BE HARD. So that is really unrealistic. As for successful I do not really care if my child is a CFO or a waitress as long as they can take care of themselves after I am gone. (Morbid I know..)
So we are back to coping skills. If life is hard then I want my child to be able to handle it. I want him to be able to stand up to bullies, maybe a hard teacher, any challenge, a heartbreak, tough boss, possibly losing his job, divorce (50% of marriages end this way), etc. If my child can get back up and move on from hardship I think this will help with success and happiness.
The next question is how do we help with coping skills. There seems to be many articles about children who have gone through traumatic events but not as many about just everyday stressors. The few articles I have found (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10802-009-9375-4?LI=true) show that coping skills do link to social anxiety and depression such as internalizing the stress, but some of the articles talk to letting your children try, fail but have a good support system so they know that they can overcome the stress.
I have been doing this little by little with Max and starting early. He is a few days from his first birthday and already walking and making connections. He is also starting the whining if he does not pick up a new skill right away. A small example presented itself the other night when Max took stackable blocks and was trying to put them together. He easily got frustrated and instead of running to him right away (which was my first instinct) I let him continue to whine and play and he eventually got them stacked. This is not a huge deal but I have to realize that even though I am a mother and a nurturer, I am also teaching my son for future skills especially since I will not be around forever. There are many other factors that contribute to how we develop including family, peers, etc. but if I can do anything to help my son handle how hard life can be in the future then I think I am doing my job (well part of it).
So what do you think the most important skills are? What do you do to help foster these skills?