By Melissa Ford
As my children moved into middle school, I began to notice that their personal challenges were bigger. There was more pressure at school both academically and socially, and more competition in the sports they played. I hovered, feeling concerned about their self-esteem, their self-concept, watching them feel good about themselves one day and bad the next. Then high school happened, adding an even more complex twist to their ever expanding views of themselves and the world around them.
Intellectually, I knew that my children's challenges were their own; emotionally, it was a whole other ballgame.
Watching my son or daughter struggle with a friendship or an academic issue or a perceived injustice, my gut reaction was to try to make their lives easier. How could I intervene to help them smooth things out? What words of wisdom might I offer that would shift their unsupportive perspectives?
It took years of inner angst until I finally succumbed to my husband's favorable view of challenges, realizing that trying to make my kids' lives easier was not very loving, and actually was doing them a disservice.
When our kids would experience a problem, my challenge-loving husband would chime in, "Let them work through it," or "They can handle this," or "We need to challenge them more." I hate admitting it, but he was right. By encouraging our kids to work through their own problems (I was always there as a sounding board), we were sending loving, affirmative messages that they could handle it, figure it out and come up with solutions.
It wasn't easy stepping back, but the benefits were innumerable.
Slowly, I watched our children become more resilient, competent and independent, feeling more confident, satisfied and proud. They were ultimately happier when I stood by and cheered, and less so when I intervened.
Recently, our college-age daughter, who was seeking a summer internship, informed my husband and me that for a mere $8,000, an internship company could land her the perfect work experience while providing her with housing and food for a ten-week summer stint. I gulped while simultaneously rationalizing, "$8,000 - that's a lot of money - but if it will makes things easier for her, maybe that's the best way to go. She can split the cost with us!" My husband rolled his eyes responding, "What are you both crazy!? You can get your own internship and learn a lot in the process."
Initially, she was overwhelmed and scared, wondering how does one go about securing an internship? Then she rolled up her sleeves.
Resumes, cover letters, references, internship websites, LinkedIn, Facebook and emails combined with dogged persistence, creativity and a strong desire brought big results as well as satisfaction, independence, pride and confidence.
Oh my, how much she would have missed if I had tried to make her life easier!
Our daughter just returned from NYC, having worked two internships she created on her own. She traveled there with her hopes, her happiness and her healthy ego, which by the way, she also created on her own.
Give your children the gift of their own challenges and watch them grow!