Did you ever say something about your parenting that shocked another parent speechless?
Several years ago, I was on a TV set doing a live interview about kids and stress. The anchor, a grandfatherly-aged man, “asked” (but really told) me,
“Well, you wouldn’t ever want to stress your kids, right?”
And I said:
“Actually, they need to be upset sometimes. It’s not my job to protect them from stress.”
In the several beats of total silence that followed, even I could hear the producer in his ear going “Say something!”
I smiled and started to explain that stress can be really valuable. He sputtered to life, interrupting me by lunging towards me and saying “How can you SAY that? Live in front of millions of people, and you’re a doctor!”
Now, he overestimated his viewership by quite a bit, but still…he was totally freaked out by the idea that our kids’ stress could be beneficial in any way.
I know we’ve been taught by society that stress is a poison, and of course it’s a parent’s job to protect their kids from poison. But stress is not a toxin.
Stress is a tool.
And, just like any tool, it can be really dangerous if you don’t know how to handle it. You also can’t build without it.
Stress builds mental health in the same way that exercise builds body health.
If you overdo it, or exercise when you’re already injured, it can cause real damage. In the same way, if you encounter too much stress without the right support, if you try to handle too much when you’re already feeling the strain, stress can also damage you. All that is true, and so is this:
The stresses our kids face today can, if we support them right, strengthen them for all their tomorrows.
As parents, we’re scared. Scared that our kids are not ok. Scared that the world has thrown too much at them, or that we don’t know how to protect them.
In fact, this unbelievably hard year and a half has given them one huge advantage. They will not face their first major upheaval or disruption unprepared.
If we are simply a little bit intentional in our conversations, they can use the lessons from this awful time to thrive as adults.
Don’t be scared.
This has been HARD. But it’s also been beneficial.
Hang in with me, because in my next email, we’re going to talk about how to know if they’re doing OK, or if they’re struggling, and what to do if they are.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, just hit reply.
All my best,
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