Giving Kids a Meaningful Advantage
by John Reilly, MSW, LCSW
Look through the local papers and you will find numerous offerings available to parents to provide their children with tutors and enrichment classes, help in mastering academic material, private sports coaches, music lessons, speed and strength training, SAT prep classes, specialized camps, etc. Parents seek these services to provide their children with a competitive advantage. We are accustomed to the idea of helping our students compete in the arenas of sports and academics. One area that is often overlooked when it comes to readiness and competition is that of emotional strength and flexibility. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills identifies the four C’s necessary for success in the 21st century workforce. These are Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity. The savvy 21st century parent knows that being emotionally strong is a prerequisite to being able to exercise these four essential skills to their fullest.
Emotional strength is the foundation that allows people to handle new situations through understanding who they are and how to use their feelings. If we want our children to be ready for the world, we have to provide them with the tools to handle conflicts, disappointments, opportunities, success, failure, love and friendships -- not just the ability to kick a soccer ball or solve for X. Teaching children to understand their feelings during stressful or demanding situations rather than becoming overwhelmed gives a meaningful advantage to handling what life has to offer. Children need to be able to prepare and plan and to recover from difficulties when they occur. This is best done by facing adversities with support available during a time when the stakes are not so high. Having a therapist to help debrief, strategize and process how to navigate a difficult situation is an invaluable tool for life -- one that can be internalized and accessed for future experiences.
We are constantly amazed by the strength of our students who work with their therapists and teachers to develop the tools and abilities that will serve them well in life. Students who face adversities and learn how to use support systems to overcome them earlier in life have a distinct advantage over students who wait until they are faced with the higher-stakes challenges of college or the workforce.
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