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Social Worker Jessica Furie, MSW, Psy.D., (www.jessicafurie.com) has completed her doctorate in psychology and is currently supervised in private practice in Westwood. Jessica works with adults, children and families.
by Jessica Furie, Psy.D.
In the summer, I work as a resident therapist at a local sleep-away camp. This camp is for typical kids, and has all the essentials for an awesome experience: a ropes course, beach access, cooking, video, and tennis courts. In July, I was introduced to a 9-year-old girl who was incredibly homesick. She had been crying for nearly six hours, and I was called in to see what I could do to help her feel more comfortable.
I tried all my normal questions: “What do you like to do? What friends are you here with? What are you excited for?” She kept crying. She repeated over and over, “My parents said I never have to do anything that makes me uncomfortable.”
It sounds like a well-intentioned and reasonable thing for parents to say. We want to teach our kids to be aware of dangerous situations, to say “no” to strangers and to stand up for themselves. But do you think the parents actually meant that their child should feel no discomfort at all?
This question of how much discomfort we should let our kids feel comes up in my practice all day long. I always ask the follow-up question: “How much discomfort can you tolerate when your child is struggling?” Often times, we want to protect our children from feeling any anxiety or discomfort. But then how will they learn to navigate tough experiences?
A set of parents came to my office worried about their son transitioning to college. The dad laughed when he disclosed that he always took his son’s dinner plate to the sink. His son was a dedicated football player and was tired by the time dinner came around. Without me saying anything, he realized that his love was hindering his son from growing.
As the school year gets into motion, ask yourself how you would like to see your child grow. Do you want your child to start making their own bed, carry laundry to the laundry room, or take out the trash? When your child is struggling with a new experience, try to instill confidence in their abilities and then give them a push to face their fear. Although this can be difficult, it will help change the way they see themselves – and soon they will let you know, “Mom, I got it!”
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