Practical Ways to Help Young People Take Ownership of Their Lives

By Jessica Fehrenbacher

Last week, we had a homework issue at our house. My first grader had forgotten his folder at school, and because he was so upset that he wouldn’t get his math worksheet completed, I told him that I would go back to school to get it. Meanwhile, my fifth grader realized that she had also forgotten her language arts notebook and asked if I would get it out of her locker while I was there. I told both of them that this was a one-time instance, and in the future I would not be returning to school for forgotten items. By fixing their problems, I knew I was not actually helping them. They needed to learn to deal with the circumstances of their mistakes on their own.

It is a problem that parents all across the country face every day. Parents are constantly second guessing their decisions when it comes to their children. Decisions about their child’s well-being, academic progress, and involvement in sports and extracurricular activities are on many parents’ minds daily. We want to do everything in our power to make sure our children are well-rounded, receive a quality education and have strong peer to peer interaction, but we must also realize that our children will make mistakes, won’t always make the team and will sometimes fail. It is important that parents handle both the successes and the failures as part of the parenting process.

When a problem arises with your child, walk them through the problem. For example, if they get a bad grade on a homework assignment, go over the missed questions with your child. Propose they talk with their teacher about ideas to understand the subject better. If they have an issue with a peer, talk with them about their feelings. Suggest they look at the situation through their friend’s eyes. By seeing two points of view, they acquire a better understanding of a situation.

In the article “What are We Teaching Our Children,” author Tim Elmore has some practical ways to strengthen our kids while preparing them for adulthood.

• Empathize with them about their pain and sadness
• Tell them about a time that you had a similar struggle
• Quote Ben Franklin, “There is no pain without gain.”
• Talk over a strategy that they can put into place to deal with their situation
• Role play with them a possible scenario, even worse-case, so they can be prepared
• Help them with emotional intelligence and show them how to relate to others
• Don’t solve the problem by removing it, but instead equip them to solve their own problems

Elmore ends his article with a powerful thought: “As our children face adversity, it’s time we ask ourselves: Is my solution going to aid them as adults in dealing with this on their own? Or does it make them more dependent upon me to solve their problems. I dare you.”

Jessica Fehrenbacher is the Make a Difference Grant Program Manager at Youth Resources.