Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Helping Kids Cope with Frustration

Grit and perseverance are the topics of many books, blogs, and articles lately. Many experts believe that determination is a quality adults should strive to cultivate in themselves and in their kids, and most parents would probably agree that grit is important. But watching one’s child struggle with a task is not easy, and it can be difficult to simply sit back and watch, as many parenting experts suggest. Here are some tips – from a Scholastic article by Rachel Bowie and from our own toolkit --to help kids feel less frustrated so that they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and dive into another attempt at something challenging:

For children in early elementary school, says pediatrician and author Dr. Harry Karp, the style of an adult’s communication is key. Children of six and seven years old are well into developing their receptive language skills, but they’re still relative beginners, and frustration and anger may make them even less skilled at understanding what they’re hearing. Adults should accommodate by using short phrases and repetition. Calmly acknowledge the child’s feelings and show empathy without laying it on too thick. Say, “You’re frustrated, Sarah. I can see you’re frustrated. It’s hard at first. But I know you’ll get it.”

Kids in middle and high school often feel tremendous pressure to balance their social worlds, academics, family obligations, and extra curricular activities. And anxiety makes them more prone to frustration. One tack author Michele Borba, Ed.D. suggests is helping young people recognize the signs that they’re starting to feel frustrated so they can begin to calm themselves down. Does your teenager grind his teeth? Tense his shoulders? Start snapping at people or shut down? He may not be aware that he’s drawing near an explosion until it happens, so helping him spot warning signs can help him feel a sense of control. Next, give him some suggestions. Perhaps he can walk away from a task for five minutes or repeat a mantra to himself (“No one is perfect at first” or “I don’t have to be perfect; I just have to try my best”) until he feels calmer.

One of the most helpful things adults can do is to offer lessons on perseverance rather than tips for succeeding at a specific task. No kid of any age likes to be preached at, but children are interested in, and will be comforted by, stories of their parents’ own struggles. Share an anecdote about a time you failed at something you can now do with ease. Or reassure kids that no one is born an expert. For real-life examples of people who overcame difficulties to achieve great things, visit the blog Opening Lines.

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