How can we help kids believe they have resources?
Young children rely on interactions with beloved caregivers to develop a fundamental sense of self. This starts in infancy. A baby co-regulates with his parent or caregiver, learning that emotional distress is manageable from his caregiver’s responses to his emotional outreach. Over time, sensitive, reliable responses by a caregiver give a young child a model for how to respond to and manage emotions.
In other words, kids learn in direct response to how we respond to situations. Every time we stay calm, every time we allow space for them to try, and every time we are there to soothe a risk gone wrong, children further build their sense of who they are and of what they are capable.
When a child is faced with a new, challenging situation, we can remain steady, supportive and give her the space and allowance to tackle it. By doing this, we communicate to her that she can do it—that she has the resources. If and when she falters or fails, we can also be there to celebrate her effort and soothe her pain or frustration. Over time, risk-taking becomes routine and failure becomes a manageable part of life and learning.
Be mindful, and you’ll find ways to do this!
Next time you are playing, exploring or just being with your child, be extra mindful of how you respond to the challenges and new situations he faces. Look for chances to demonstrate that he’s got this, that you’re not worried about challenges. If he fails, do what you can to help him cope with it. Every time you do, you’ll help him develop the capacity to be resilient when you are no longer right by his side.