Here's a letter from a supersister who wonders how to help her kids feel confident in the face of fear. With her permission, I'm sharing it with you. I'll add my two cents, and then you add yours, okay? Let's give her a list of hopeful, positive things only the kindest, strongest parent would do in a situation like this:
I just left my scared first grader on her 2nd day of school, still so attached to me, me trying to make it ok for her, assuring her I'll be there at pick up and knowing that she's looking for some love on the play yard without her best friend. This morning we met up with a group of first grade girls that raced off down the street ahead of us moms. I whispered. "Do you want to run off with them?" She said no she wanted to hold my hand, be with me. How can I give her confidence to fly off and be free? ---S.
I think confidence is like a seed. It grows strong over time as we tend to its basic needs until it is time to sprout. Much of the needed process happens silently under the surface without us even knowing. Sometimes as parents we lose faith that something good is happening quietly when our kids struggle and so we panic, but nine times out of ten, we're surprised. Things do work out. Our kids do grow and change and step up to the next stage of things and everything is just fine.
Know this: Your daughter is collecting evidence from you about what she can expect from this growing process. If you can get to a place where you feel sure of her and her natural way of being in the world, she will, too. When my own stories of being scared or lonely as a kid are dominating my thoughts at times like this, I use them as a connecting point for empathy. I say, "Let me tell you a story." I say what it was like for me in a similar situation, how I felt and what the hard parts were, and then I say, "but it didn't last. I made a friend. Her name was Debbi Sloat. I got the confidence I needed. I figured it out. It's hard right this second, but tomorrow morning might be the morning everything changes. Let's see."
She might need an anchor to ground her--like a playdate with an acquaintance who goes to the same school. Or something simple and fun to share at lunch with someone she likes. Or a note in her backpack or her pocket reminding her it's just a matter of time before it works out just fine. But she'll get there. She needs to hear you say that out loud, I promise.
Let her know that her pace, though, is perfect, and that her way of getting ready to bloom is just fine. She can take her time because something good is coming--new friendships, new ease, new confidence. Her job is to wait for it and to reach out with your help, whenever she feels the tiniest bit of courage.
What say you, superparents? How do you encourage your kids to feel confident in the face of new situations that would be unnerving for anyone?