Success and failure starts at a very young age for us all; starting with learning to crawl and walk, we constantly deal with successes and failures throughout our lives: passing exams, getting onto the team, winning medals, getting a place in college, securing a job, etc.
As a parent, it is heartbreaking to see your child hurt because they think that they have failed. How can we protect our children when we see them suffering? Here are ’10 ways’ to support your child when they suffer the setback of perceived failure:
- The first step should be to sit with them and listen without judgement. All you can do is listen and name the feelings and clarify what you are hearing. Help them to make sense of what is happening. Help them to see the picture more clearly and allow them to make their own plan. By wrapping your child up in cotton wool you are disarming them instead of making them stronger. Life will have many challenges for them so you must help them to see and believe that they do not have to face them alone.
- Look at what went wrong. Explore the choices they made and why they thought that choice was the right one for them. Empower them to come up with new plans. How could they do it differently next time?
- Older children do not want their parents to protect them, they often want to fend for themselves. However, if they suffer a knock to their confidence, you need to recognise when to step back in and help restore their confidence. Reassure them that family is there for them.
- Talk to them about the need to develop coping skills. Help them to identify the skills they need to cope with the stresses of life. Life will throw many challenges at them from relationships to college, exams and the workplace.
- As parents, we have to explore how we see things. Do we ourselves look at life as a series of successes and failures?
- We need to explore how we cope with really stressful times. Do we talk about it and ask for help or do we close down. Help your children to see from a very young age that talking it out is always helpful.
- If you are really concerned for their wellbeing, you may have to insist on them visiting a GP or counsellor. Getting professional support can be a good choice. Many young people may see counselling as an American concept from television. Talk to them about the benefits of getting support from the right professionals and that they need not feel any stigma attached with engaging in services. Jigsaw provides free, confidential mental health support for young people aged 12-25.
- It is important to always actively listen to our children. Hear what they are saying, get to know them and how they think. Allow them talk and tell their stories. This will support them to come to you when they are older. If you consistently jump in and tell them what to do they may choose not to come to you as they grow older. If you don’t know there is a problem how can you help? You are always the best person for your child to come to.
- We must teach our children that life is actually not about success and failure but about trying our best, learning and trying again. Do not give up.
- When there are such challenges going on for a child, a teen or young adult, it is really important to look after yourself. Talk with family and seek professional support for yourself so you can stay strong and be there for your child. Remember, parenting your child starts with parenting yourself.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.