More about supporting children and youth

I think I have shared before that I believe one of the most important tasks I have as a mother and as a teacher is not to protect my children and students from unpleasant situations but to help them see that they are part of life. Instead of solving their problems for them, I should help them find strategies to get through them. This view has developed through the years in both parenting and teaching. Before, I was more anxious about my children experiencing conflict, or getting physically hurt, but this changed gradually when I realized that I cannot sweep away every single moment of distress and uncertainty for them. I also became more aware of the fact that one day, they will have to stand on their own feet.

In order to stand on their own feet, they need to learn strategies to overcome challenges. They can only do this by experience. On one side, this allows them to see their strengths and continue building on them, and on the other, after strugling finding a way through, they will learn where they need to develop new skills. If every time a difficult situation arises, I step in and solve it for them, the day they encounter one as adults, they will feel helpless. They will eventually learn like we all do, but why not allow for these moments when they have my support? When I can ask critical questions. When I can point out the good in themselves that they don’t see. When we can reflect together.

On this side of the world, life is filled with distractions that trigger our instinct of seeking pleasure: social media, unlimited access to sweets, fast food, entertainment, and the list continues. Our children can easily believe that a “good life” is a life filled with pleasant experiences and entertainment where there are no challenges, no problems, and no suffering, but I think that they will end up feeling empty if they are not encouraged to rather spend more time learning about themselves, experience life in its full range, and use these experiences to figure themselves out. This includes what we would define as good or pleasurable experience, but the challenging or difficult experiences too.

As a Yoga student, I am still finding the right balance between what I like to see as frolicking through life and the inner journey. In my understanding, Yoga teaches us that life experiences are here first and foremost to bring us closer to understand ourselves, and to grow spiritually. This means that we do not need to reject life’s ups and downs. We do not need to seek the downs either. We are encouraged to open up to life as it is and learn. We are warned of the danger of getting stuck (attachment) in a world of dualities: like/dislike, pleasure/pain, and rather treat them equally calmly. This is one aspect of Yoga that when I think about it, it makes me feel uplifted, until I get stuck in a difficult situation, and have to remind myself to allow, to move through it, and let go of my judgement and my fear. This is, what I would argue is step two in the context of my reflections in this post related to supporting children and youth.

Step one is to allow for challenging situations to happen to our young ones, and to help them nagivage through them, draw the teachings from them, and to remind them that life as we experience it is filled with ups and downs and it is how we deal with them that makes the difference.

Step two would be to put more attention in their inner life to better navigate through the world and avoid either indulging and thus risking of harming themselves (over eating, becoming an addict, not sleeping enough, over training, etc), or the world around them (overconsumption being an example), and to not fear when going through a difficult patch, because they have in them what they need to get up, brush the dust off and learn.

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