Debbie Gross, LCSW, Ltd. - Individual, Marital & Family Therapy

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One Therapist's Reflections

Teaching Resilience to Our Youth

From January 25, 2010

I was asked to speak to the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff parent community on Resilience – How to Nurture and Develop Your Child’s Inner Self. They planned a series of discussions on "The Middle School Years:  A Parents' Guide”, offered through a wonderful community organization, LEAD™, a United Way agency whose mission is to support parents and other adults shaping the future of our youth and is dedicated to promoting healthy family relationships and preventing alcohol, tobacco, drug use, and other risky behavior by youth.   
My goal for the evening was for parents to walk away with a better sense of what they can do to enhance the self-motivation and responsibility in their children. Teaching children how to manage their disappointments and failures will lead to resilience and empowerment. Allowing children to develop resilience, to own their actions, grades, and life choices, is one of the hardest tasks of parenting. The seminar provided parents some tools to improve communication with their children and receive practical strategies to help them learn to find motivation internally rather than seek external rewards and gratification.
I offered this seminar again at Temple Chai’s Wellness Day 2010, sponsored by The Chai Center for Enrichment & Renewal, Temple Chai Sisterhood, and The Levinson Scholar-In-Residence Fund. 
I assigned homework to these groups, and I thought I would share it with you. Please spend some time in the coming weeks to incorporate one of the following ideas into your daily lives. Let me know on this blog which one you are doing, and what impact it has on your family’s life. Remember that as families make changes, the first response might be resistance. Stick with it, stay positive, and see if, after four or five weeks, you notice the positive effects of your efforts.
  • Journaling or Emailing
  1. If you choose to journal, purchase a small notebook for each of your children. Explain the purpose of the journal – just a way to share private thoughts between you and your child. Tell him you will leave the journal in a specific place in his room when you have written in it, and he can leave it on your pillow or by your nightstand if you need to read it.
  2. If you choose to email, let your child know that you want to use email to share private thoughts between you both. Let her know she can respond or initiate conversation.
  3. Make sure YOU don’t OVERDO it. Only write to your child once or twice a week at most.
  4. However, ALWAYS respond respectfully and promptly to their emails or journals to you.
  5. Keep your thoughts positive and sincere. Don’t fake it

  • Spending one on one time together – what would your child like to do?
  1. Find time once a week to spend together doing something child-focused
  2. Grocery shopping or folding laundry does not count!
  3. This activity does not and should not cost a lot of money. You don’t have to buy your child’s time or attention!
  • Family meals
  1. Plan on spending at least one night a week eating together as a family. 
  2. Make sure everyone can attend ahead of time – don’t wait to the last minute to tell the family, and then feel disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
  3. Plan the menu together or make sure that there are items at the table that each person will enjoy.
  • Family nights
  1. At least twice during the month, up to once a week, spend the evening together.
  2. Decide together how to select activities. It can be by submitting ideas into a hat and selecting the winning choice or rotating amongst family members. Everyone needs to agree to participate in each other’s activities, and parameters on what can be selected can be talked about ahead of time. (i.e. – activity that lasts 1-2 hours, in the house, no cost, etc.)
Enjoy finding time to smile with your child today. And remember, sometimes we see the rewards of good parenting many years later.

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