As we all know, life’s not just a boulevard of green lights. There are ups and downs, challenges and opportunities, malevolence and compassion—in short, good and bad.
As parents, we cannot shield our children from “bad days” but we can equip them to handle problems well and even turn “bad days” into “good days.”
At different ages and stages, the challenges our children face will differ, but simple, core values can guide them through it all.
Here are five tips to guiding your children through their “no good, very bad days.”
Head off the next bad day by establishing a gratitude practice with your children. This doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simply talking about your favorite parts of the day each night or the things you’re each grateful for before bed or first thing in the morning will nurture an overall sense of abundance, appreciation, and gratitude to a power bigger than the self.
As you go about your day, verbally share your appreciation for the good all around you.
“Listen to the lovely sounds of the birds.”
“How lucky are we to have such kind neighbors.”
“Isn’t it nice to be able to visit family?”
“Look at all of the wonderful food we can choose from in this grocery store.”
“I love reading books together like this.”
“We woke up to good health and sunshine today. How fortunate we are. Let’s put it to good use.”
When your mind is full of thoughts such as these, problems that come up tend to seem smaller, more temporary, and more manageable. As you might imagine, this will not only enhance the lives of your children but yours as well.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that children model their parents’ behavior. How would you react in these situations: when you break your favorite mug while washing dishes; when someone cuts you off while driving; or when you find your toddler in the bathroom sampling your makeup?
Our initial reaction to problems tends to have a ripple effect. When someone spills milk, one parent may quickly clean it up (or hand a towel to the child to take responsibility) and say, “spills happen,” with a smile. Another may sigh loudly, and mutter under her breath while being obviously annoyed with the culprit as she sops up the mess.
Modeling calmness for your children both reassures them in the moment and teaches them a more positive way to react in the long term.
When your children become upset, encourage them to find their own sense of calm. Often the best thing you can do is offer hugs and a soft tone of voice to slow things down. When calm is restored you can talk it over.
Look for the Lesson
Teach your children that their lives are teaching them. Every encounter, both good and bad, offers something to learn. When troubles arise, help your children find the inherent lesson within it. Especially for young children, this can become a sort of game.
Questions to ask might be, “What is it that bothers you about this situation?” “What can we do to make this go better in the future?” “What can we let go of to move on from this situation?” or simply, “What can we learn from this?”
Apologize When Necessary
When other people are involved and an apology is in order, teach your children the value of being truthful and taking responsibility for their mistakes. With a focus on compassion for others, children can offer sincere apologies and learn to come up with solutions as well.
Appreciate the Problems
Life’s challenges are truly opportunities in disguise. If you can teach your children to value difficulty, problems, and suffering for the potential for growth and learning, you’ll have raised a resilient person with the wisdom to handle whatever life throws at them.