By Michal Lloyd
“Always be the first version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”Judy Garland
As parents, we want good things for our children, but at times, we can push kids to follow our dreams and not their own. Some of us wanted to be football stars, heavy metal guitarists, heads of industry, or even rodeo clowns–or maybe that is just me. None of these are bad, but those desires can inadvertently pressure our kids to be something they are not. I say this as a mother who placed my own goals on my child in the past. I eventually realized I was depriving her of her own hero’s journey—a journey like the one Luke Skywalker took in Star Wars.
In the movies, we watch the star embark on an adventure that takes them on a journey of discovery, leading them to realize their destiny. The hero slays the dragon and saves the world in the end. Are we willing to let our kids experience the highs and lows of taking that journey while at the same time being their champions? The best gift we can give our children sometimes is to let them confront their fears.
Watch for Falling Rocks
That, of course, is easier said than done. We still need to guide our children by setting clear expectations; although it is essential to slowly give more responsibility to a child as they get older, it is also important to listen intently for signs that they are struggling. And issues like mental health make a parent’s job even harder. Mental health isn’t like skinning a knee. You can’t see the wound, and you can’t repair it with a band-aid. And although we are getting better at acknowledging mental health, there are still many stigmas attached, making it challenging for kids to talk about their pain, but pain is pain, whether it is a skinned knee or depression.
That is why we need to watch for signs along the way. We don’t have adventures without some adversity, but we can minimize it by being aware and engaged.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this last May, we must acknowledge that substance use can confuse a child’s path of discovery. Drugs change the chemistry in the body, making it even more challenging to separate something like anxiety from a substance’s side effects.
It takes a lot of skills to be in a supporting role. It also takes constraint and courage. It is not for the weak at heart. Someday, when your kids reflect on what you taught them, they might call you their hero—who knows?
Here are some tips to help make the trip a safe one. Some are basic, but it is a reminder we all need help to live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
Tips for Best Supporting Role
Just like a coach wouldn’t send a player into a game without sufficient padding and a helmet. Here are some tips to protect your player:
- Let go, but not all the way. Watch to see if your kids need help. Do you notice irregular mood changes? Are they spending less time with friends or struggling with homework?
- Give them clear expectations. Even if you drink alcohol, you can model for your children by not driving drunk and drinking responsibly. You can also let them know you don’t want them to drink at their age.
- Kids need more sleep than adults, and routine helps help kids know what to expect. It is helpful to set a regular bedtime.
- Movement in whatever form helps reduce stress and is good for the brain.
- Healthy Meals– meals don’t have to be fancy, just balanced.
- Family Dinners–sitting down together is a great way to learn about your child. It can even be a frozen pizza.
- Figure out how you can play the supporting role and not the lead.
- Open communication – they won’t tell you much if they feel judged.
- Lots of love
Want more information on how to support your child as they navigate life? Check out these resources below: