Ashwini KR is the Elementary School Counselor at Canadian International School. Manisha Ninan is the Secondary Counselor and works with both Middle and High School students. Tanusree Durairaj is the Boarding Counselor at Canadian International School.
There is no perfect way to master the skill of parenting. Sometimes we find the common approach to encourage the child’s success by pushing unrealistic expectations onto them, over-managing their lives and denying them opportunities to grow and develop resilience. It is important to know that by cultivating more positive socio-emotional skills like optimism, empathy, and humility, children will be better prepared for the future they face while protecting their mental health.
With the current Covid-19 crisis, there have been changes every week in the economy, social uncertainty, and fear. Children are incredibly anxious, and some of them find it difficult to be effective in a very uncertain environment. Parenting can take a nervous turn at this point, especially when a child is distressed. But functioning from that space can rob children of the opportunity to learn to manage themselves.
Performance vs process – Emphasizing on performance makes children feel that the end result is only what really matters. When parents start giving more importance to the process, they address the child’s personality and character. Focusing on the process includes allowing children to explore alternative ways to approach a problem. Encouraging them to utilize their strengths and what they have in order to achieve the end goal, helps them apply the same skills to other issues as well.
Listening vs redirecting – When children feel angry, sad, or other intense emotions, we might be inclined to distract or redirect them away from their discomfort. This isn’t always the best strategy. Listening would include acknowledging and validating their feelings, being non – judgmental, refraining from advising unless asked for. Research on attachment—the unique, loving bond between children and their caregivers—suggests that a key part of developing secure and loving relationships is spending time with your children to support their experiences with their emotions.
Modelling curiosity – Curiosity is a cognitive skill that helps children take responsibility for their learning. This can help children take ownership of their own choices and interests. This can be in the form of a particular movie choice, game, hobby or extra-curricular activities. Each child will be curious in their own way that influences what they are interested in. If one child is interested in reading it does not necessarily mean that their peer will have the same interest. Welcoming and celebrating all kinds of curiosity will help children learn and contribute to their well-being. Children will observe and learn when parents start modelling curiosity, independence, creativity, and the importance of working collaboratively in a group.
Owning a moral compass – The points of a moral compass include honesty, integrity, and compassion. Our moral values can be rooted in our families, cultures, beliefs and experiences. Understanding the uniqueness and differences of each helps to gain a deeper knowledge and helps foster inclusivity. It is essential to have a worldview that is larger than ourselves. Imbibing core values, such as respect, courage, good humour, joy, etc., help guide our own standards and navigate through uncertainty. For our children to own a healthy moral compass and respect that of others, adults need to demonstrate the same.
Enthusiasm for confronting uncertainty – We need the kind of enthusiasm for ‘wobbly legs in a wobbly world’ like we used to have when our children were learning to walk. When they fell down, we would encourage them to get up again. When they fell again, we would continue to encourage them. It was understanding that they did not know how to do something yet, not being sure of how long it would take to become competent, and knowing that our children would learn to walk eventually. The big takeaway is that adults need to function from a place of hope with a shift towards a growth mindset about dealing with uncertainty. This helps children build resilience and confidence during challenging times.
To quote Dr Christine Carter, a researcher – “Acceptance allows us to see the reality of the situation in the present moment, it frees us up to move forward, rather than remaining paralyzed (or made ineffective) by uncertainty, fear, or argument”.
In pre-COVID-19 times there was less worry about being in the same proximity to someone else. We did not have to bring attention to the nuances of parenting as much as we need to do today. As much as this brings a shift in parenting, it is essential to look into these aspects to strike a balance between well-being and responsibility.