I attended a social services conference recently where one of the keynote speakers asked, “If you were going to send your kids out into the world today, what would you pack in their suitcase?” Thought-provoking to say the least. I love questions like this because they force us to lock out all the background noise and lock into the core of what is of importance to us.
In college, moving was easy. Throw all your junk into a few boxes or a couple of trash bags and haul them to your new digs. Looking back now, I can’t believe I survived moving every year of my college career. The one-year lease was up so, naturally, you moved. It was the status quo. Now, when I take a even a short vacation the only thing I dread is the packing and unpacking of the suitcases! So it follows that when the question was posed, my first reaction was one of dread. If packing a suitcase for a vacation was daunting, this proposition was downright incomprehensible.
When we relocate our families, a variety of emotions come along for the ride. How do we best weather the storm of these emotions to allow us and our children to cope and thrive through the chaos of relocation? In addition to clothes, household items, and beloved treasures, what will you pack in your child’s suitcase to prepare them for the world?
Characteristics like persistence, patience, perseverance, and courage are all fundamental keys to developing the resilience necessary not only survive the challenging times in our lives, but to truly thrive in our lives. I’ve posted previously about building resilience by managing some environmental factors surrounding relocating your family (read more here), but how do we really pack our children’s suitcases with these fundamental keys? Afterall, we can’t call room service to run up an extra dose of patience if we find we’ve forgotten to pack it in the suitcase for the big trip of Life!!
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), patience, persistence, perseverance and courage are developed through our experiences, not through someone simply talking to us about them. Our kids generally don’t, and developmentally they might not be ready to, connect the dots between their experiences and what they are either consciously or unconsciously learning. As their parent and coach, protector and provider, we need to remain connected to these lessons and reinforce them, not necessarily by long, complicated conversations but by a simple word or two that serves to flip a switch to deeper understanding.
“Yesterday when I dropped you off at school I noticed you walked right up to that group of kids and talked to them. That took some courage to do that.” I love the “I noticed” statements because it simply is a statement of what you observed. Your child doesn’t need to respond at all and a seed is planted. For kids that find it hard to acknowledge the good things they do, this can diffuse a “yes you did/no I didn’t” tug-of-war. For kids who simply appreciate the acknowledgement, you’ve just deposited into their emotional bank account.
Another tactic I use with my kids is the “oh, I forgot the word” or “I can’t think of the right word” as you describe what you saw or heard. I used this on my son the other day in an effort to help him acknowledge the times when he is brave….he doesn’t always feel that way!! It took some effort not to say the word myself but as I described his actions and mentioned repeatedly my lack of brain power to remember the word, finally from that back seat of the car came the response I was fishing for…”Do you mean ‘brave,’ Mom?” Yep. That’s exactly what I mean!!
As the new year approaches, take some time to reflect on those key “items” that you would pack in the suitcase and make a plan for 2014. How, when and where can you set your kids up for success and provide the experiences or the language that helps them develop the fundamentals to thrive in this game we call Life.
No parent should move without a game plan.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.