[Read a similar post on Celebrating Hard Work and Healthy Risk-Taking in Children with Jennifer Hill.]
What if all the horrible things we think might happen, probably won’t?
I’ve been saying that to myself often. Every time I look at my baby and see a potential disease, developmental delay, bee sting. I keep reminding myself “all the horrible things I think might happen… probably won’t”.
As someone who automatically goes to the worst-case scenario, my main instinct is to tell my baby to “be careful” and to watch my reading students carefully for any sign of trickiness as it may lead to something worse down the line.
When I think about this default that I have for myself (and that so many others have), I’m realizing that I want something different for my child and for all the children I work with.
I want my kids to think, as a default, that probably everything will be fine. I want them to be comfortable bumping into something and not worrying that it’s going to fall on their head. I want them to be comfortable trying to stand up and wobble a little and not think, “Yikes! I’m going to fall.”
I want them to read through a book and not stop at the very first word that feels hard and think “oh my God, I can’t do this! It’s too hard!” I want them to see one hard word and think “that was a tough word.”
My main work is building resilience in kids, and that’s best done when kids think as a default- “probably everything will be fine, and if it’s not, I’ll deal with it as it comes.” This gets rid of so many of the “what ifs” that pervade our consciousness sometimes to the point of paralyzation. So much of childhood anxiety (and anxiety in general) comes from the thought “what if something horrible happens and I can’t deal with it?” By allowing our children to have the default of “everything will likely work out” we are able to diminish their anxiety about the future, and give them confidence that they can respond when something tricky happens.
You may be thinking, “okay, yeah, sure that’s nice to think about, but I don’t want anything bad to happen to my baby. It’s my job to protect my kid and it’s my job to make sure they have a healthy caution and to be wary of things that could hurt them.”
The truth is, when we act like everything is going to be fine until it isn’t, it doesn’t take away from our children’s ability to respond. All it does is teaches our kids that if something happens that hurts them or makes them feel not good, they’ll tackle it as it comes.
Our kids are more likely to take on challenges when they assume that everything will work out.
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