When we hear the word courage, we often think of these grandiose moments of bravery. Experiences like leaping off a high-dive, trying out for an ultra-competitive team, or taking your first step off a zip-line seem like the most appropriate ways for us to help our kids to understand courage.
But what if courage is more ordinary than that? What if courage is an idea that shows up in the everyday as we interact with friends and family, go to school, and navigate the world of extra-curricular activities?
Read anything on Generation Z, and you’ll find that stress and anxiety are hallmarks of these kids and teenagers. On the surface, it might appear that preteens primarily eat (pizza, gum, and anything with the word sour in it), sleep (nightly campaigning to push their bedtime an hour later), and go to school (begrudgingly). So, if that’s really all they do, why do they always look so tired and frazzled?
Days of rest really don’t really exist anymore. The reality is that preteens are feeling caught in their schedule, their access to culture, and the pressure to succeed. And the expectations placed on them are often too unrealistic for them to handle. As preteens figure out how to navigate these expectations, they face unprecedented anxiety.
But we know they don’t have to navigate these feelings on their own. We can help them discover how to find courage to face those expectations and come out stronger on the other side.
Here are some quick ideas to get you started:
1. The Courage to Say No.
The first step in navigating their stressful world is learning how to discern which activities are worth their time and will give them life rather than stress them out. Learning how to say “no” will be a skill they’ll use for the rest of their life. And yes, it sometimes takes courage not to do something because they’ll feel like they’re missing out or letting someone down. Help them understand that creating breathing room in their schedule will be more beneficial to them in the long run.
2. The Courage to Try New Things.
Make practicing courage a regular part of your family. Whether it’s a new cuisine, a new vacation spot, or a new activity, your family can set the tone for what it means to have courage. The more we try new things, the easier it becomes to, well, try new things. We want to raise kids who will meet the challenge of the world head on, which most often will take them out of their comfort zone. Teach them what this can look like while they’re still with you and learning what it means to be an adult.
3. The Courage to Ask for Help.
Help kids realize that they don’t have to struggle on their own. We all need others to help us figure things out from time to time. During the preteen years, our kids will be stretched in all sorts of ways and will need help sorting it all out. Learning to ask for help, could be the key to their long-term success.
4. The Courage to Fail and Make Mistakes.
Help your kids understand that failure and mistakes are part of the learning process. How we respond when our kids bring home a bad grade, get in trouble at school, or miss their free-throws will determine what they believe about failure. Create a safe place at home where failure is a catalyst to success, rather than a reason to stop trying.
5. The Courage to Be Themselves.
The preteen years play a huge role in the formation of their identity. They can go from skate punk to preppy in a matter of a few days depending on their latest group of friends. Don’t freak out, but give them space to discover who they really are and what they like. Encourage them to be confident in who they are as individuals created in the image of God rather than what their peers might think of them.
Your kid will face all sorts of situations throughout their preteen years that will require him or her to summon an added dose of courage. But remember, your words and actions have power in their life. Speak life to them. Be their biggest cheerleaders. Be the one that offers the most grace. Your constant love and support could be the catalyst for how they show courage in the future.