Not sure where to give a nudge in the right direction? Here are four valuable confidence-building situations.
According to parenting expert and bestselling author Kathy Lynn, giving your child the space to acquire self-confidence is part of a parent's job. "When we overprotect our kids, we are doing them a disservice," she says. "Letting go is challenging, but it is also our job. It starts when they take their first independent breath, until they turn the key in the lock of their first basement suite or dorm room." Help your kids get off to a great start by taking advantage of these situations.
When you have people over, your kids get the chance to acclimatize to social situations. Let them learn the ropes of conversation by allowing them to participate in the festivities. "Don't immediately send them to another room and have them sit at the same table as the adults for meals," says Lynn. "Then make sure to engage them in the conversation and not just ignore them." When children feel like they're a part of what's happening around them, they'll become interested and be more likely to feel their voice is valued.
Arrange a day trip with an aunt or uncle, and let your child experience a new place without you. Let them see how much fun exploring can be. "This kind of one-on-one with trusted adults other than you will allow them to hone their social skills," says Lynn. "You might even talk to the adult ahead of time about some conversation topics you know would engage your child." Summer can be a great time for enriching outings, like a farmers market, a walking tour of your city or a heritage site.
Or if you've got out-of-town relatives, they might be thrilled to have your child come to stay for a few days. "If the relatives live in a very different way — urban to rural, for example — it's a wonderful growing experience," says Lynn. That way, your child can get a chance to participate in daily activities — like cooking, gardening, etc. — outside their own home.
Between making new friends, exploring nature and learning crafts, summer camp is a one-stop shop for confidence-building. Let your child cash in on a memorable experience this summer, whatever their level of independence. "For younger or more hesitant kids, start with a day camp. When they are ready, going away without you and having a great time is a great maturing time." When your child is at camp, doing chores is a matter of impressing a counsellor, not pleasing a parent. Make the foray into the more serious chores at sleepaway camp when your child is ready.
When you let your child get acquainted with their surroundings independently, they'll build up their self-reliance and sense of intuition. "Allow preschoolers to run next door to play with another child or to borrow a cup of sugar. You are allowed to watch them through the window!" says Lynn. Completing independent tasks gives kids a sense of purpose and pride. Older children should be allowed to venture farther distances, according to their age. "Teach school-aged kids to walk to school on their own, and then let them go," says Lynn.
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