As we move into August we approach another academic year and with it many changes. For our family, Zach has mercifully started attending his Adult Day Program in person, three days a week. For other families we know, children may be moving into kindergarten, jr. high and high school. Some are going to college.

I have heard a few folks mention how “hard” this will be for their son/daughter. “They will have to make new friends, learn a new environment, meet new teachers, etc.”. As parents we want to protect our children and set them up for success, myself included.

But there is another way to look at these crossroads. Referring to a concept shared through multiple media outlets by writer Glennon Doyle, I am open to the possibility that perhaps our job descriptions as parents are not so rooted in making sure nothing is hard for our kids, but in empowering them to charge into the difficulty, knowing that they can do hard things.

One way to inspire this among our children is to show them that we, as parents do not shy away from challenges. We can let them see us rise, get knocked down and dirty, and get back up again. If appropriate we let them be part of struggles we are facing by letting them into the situation, asking for their opinion and feedback.

We can be the example by showing them that decisions to do things like moving to a better living situation, having a difficult conversation, changing jobs, leaving relationships, getting control of our health and wellness or going back to school, may not be “easy” things, but that we do them because we know we are capable. We are self-reliant. We can trust ourselves, make good decisions and walk toward challenges with confidence.

The confidence is not that everything will be alright, but rather that no matter what happens “WE” will be alright. “We can do hard things.”

A second way to help our children build these muscles is to teach them that they too, are capable of doing hard things. When a child says, “I don’t want to go to a new school, it will be hard” we can shift our response from “I’m sorry but it is for the best” to something like “You’re right about that, it will be hard, but you can do hard things, and I am here to support you through all of them.”

There is a major relief when I feel my targets shifting from making sure things are not “hard” to measuring success by the way I choose to respond (and teach Zach to respond) when hard things happen which they will continue to.

Next time your child is lamenting a difficult situation, try encouraging them and standing by them, rather than affirming that their life is hard, unfair, scarier, or more challenging than it “should” be. Let’s lift, and teach our children to lift weights that build our “response-ability” muscles rather than getting very skilled at becoming a victim.

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