Monday, January 10, 2022

Parenting Pointers: How to build confidence and reduce anxiety in your kids

Especially during the pandemic, kids have tended to feel more anxious and unsure of themselves. As a speech pathologist and mom of two kids, I've seen how some kids have begun to regress. Some have stayed that way, even as they've gone back to daycare or school. 

Maybe, for younger kids, they used to tie their shoes easily, but now they complain it's too hard. Or for older kids, say they used to do their homework on their own, but now they tell you they need you to sit beside them.

Luckily, there are some simple conversational strategies you can use to help. You can build kids' confidence through the questions you ask and comments you make. 
Try these three simple, fun rituals and routines:

1) Ask your kids what the biggest challenge of their days was, and how they overcame it. Then, give your honest answer to them.

2) Have a "troubleshooting conversation." If your child says she's stuck, see if you can pinpoint together what the problem is. Then, identify one or two best next steps. 

Say your child's robot isn't working, and she doesn't know how to fix it. Invite her to examine it closely and give you her best idea. Does she think the arm is broken, or is the robot out of batteries? Then, test the ideas together.

3) Get specific about progress. A lot of kids benefit from talking in "numbers" about how far they've come, or how much progress they've made. 

Say your child was able to swim six feet without stopping last week, but nine this week. If your child is interested, create a chart together to see his progress. Then, together, make new goals. Emphasize that you might not always meet them, but that's okay. The important thing is practicing, and building tolerance and comfort with stretching yourself.

Rebecca Rolland, EdD is a speech pathologist, Harvard lecturer, and the mom of two school-age kids. She's the author of The Art of Talking with Children, forthcoming from HarperCollins. Find her at or on twitter at rolland_rg.

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