Helping your child develop coping skills

The best way to help your child face the future — and all the challenges ahead? Give kids real opportunities to build their coping skills, says psychologist Madeline Levine.

"One thing I can tell you, mom to mom, is your child will have challenges — major challenges — in life," says psychologist Madeline Levine. Even though it may be painful, parents need to let their kids struggle from time to time. It’s the best way to prepare them for life’s ups and downs. 

Video transcript: "One of the things I hear all of the time in the office is, ‘I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.’ If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy,  you’re in the wrong business because not only is it good for your child to be unhappy some of the time, it’s inevitable that your child’s going to be unhappy some of the time. And it’s exactly in those periods of challenge that kids start to develop coping skills. So if every time you step in, and your daughter says, ‘I don’t want to go to camp,’ and you go, ‘OK, fine honey, you know, I don’t want you to be unhappy,’ she misses the opportunity to challenge herself in a developmentally appropriate way and see if she can manage it. It’s the reason why all this avoidance of failure is horribly handicapping to kids because at the end of the day, they don’t have a skill set for dealing with challenge. And the one thing I can tell you, you know, mom to mom, is your child will have challenges —  major challenges — in life. When I talk to a group of people, I always ask, ‘How many people in the room haven’t had a death, a loss, a financial reverse, being fired, or an illness?’ Everybody has. That’s what life holds in store for people. And the way you get through it is by having whatever your own particular set of coping skills are. And you never develop it if the outside is always solving the problem. You don’t learn to develop it inside."

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