Inertia. It is our enemy. When your family is moving, there are some days (many days!) when it is nearly impossible not only to get ourselves moving, but to get our kids moving. Motivation helps us kick inertia to the curb. Motivation can come from anywhere. For kids, especially tweens and teens, motivation often comes from peers.
Creating strong peer relationships is a critical life skill that requires social emotional competence and starts with our brain. The “executive function skills” are those brain-based skills that help us live life. They are skills like planning, organizing, task-initiation and goal-directed persistence. They also include response inhibition, emotion control and flexibility – all skills that are essential to developing positive peer relationships. (for a full list of executive function skills with definitions, click here.) In a nutshell, to be a good friend and to choose good friends we have to use our BRAINS.
Helping our children understand the complex emotions they might experience when they move with their family is no easy task. There is joy and excitement (A house with a pool! I get my own room!) and there is fear and anger (I just got the lead in the play! Why do I have to leave my friends? This is stupid!).
We certainly need to role model active listening and empathy when are kids are in the “no fair!” mindset. It is important not to let them wallow in misery, thereby making everyone around them miserable as well. Helping kids spring into action allows them to experience a sense of control over a situation that feels like it is completely out of their control.
Action planning comes with limits. Parents should make sure to, first, identify for themselves what things are non-negotiable. Second, communicate to kids those boundaries that have no wiggle room. Finally, and possibly the most difficult, remain open and flexible; honoring your child’s feelings and choices with a focus on taking positive steps to move on.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.
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