The world has changed dramatically in the last few years and there’s no doubt about it: we all had to learn to be brave – young and old alike. Navigating life – especially as young people growing up in a society that has been through so much recently – can be difficult. That’s why empowering kids with the tools to be strong, confident, and brave is so important. Here are some ways to help your kids develop bravery.
If you are at the doctor’s office and are nervous about it, do you want the nurse or doctor to act anxious or unprepared as well? Or, if you’re on a flight and pass through some turbulence, do you want to see the flight attendant assertively or showing that they are insecure or afraid? Just like you want professionals in life to demonstrate confidence and show that you’ll be okay, so should you also model this for your children. Your body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and words all provide information for your child to help them see if you’re anxious or brave.
Teach critical thinking.
Worry is the opposite of bravery and teaching your child to think critically about what is making them worry or feel anxious is very important. Anxiety often involves thoughts about the unknown and feeling fearful about what that looks like. If you empower your kids to put a name to the thoughts that they’re having and encourage them to vocalize them with you, another trusted adult, or a friend rather than internalizing it, they have better control of their thoughts and less internal struggle.
For example, if you hear your children talking about a situation that they are nervous about, you could ask them ‘what could you do to handle this situation if XYZ happened?’ or ‘what small steps can you take to help you get through this bigger situation?’ Being brave means overcoming fear and taking a step in confidence, regardless of how you might feel otherwise. Critical thinking and external processing helps kids develop strategies and language that help them take ownership of their thoughts and ultimately, create a braver mindset.
Let them try to figure things out first.
Your child is stronger and more resilient than you might think. After you model bravery and then give them the tools and language that they need to act on it, let your children step out and take a risk. While it might be tempting, avoid jumping in to rescue them too soon. Instead, show that you trust them and that you are assured that they can handle their emotions or the situation that they are nervous about. When they see that they really CAN act brave, then it helps them build on that for future scenarios that arise.
Trials and difficult circumstances will happen in life, no matter what. To get through those times, be sure to teach kids that these things are temporary, that life is still full of incredible joys, and that brave behavior will help them become stronger.