Last month, we had the pleasure of presenting a webinar with our colleague Elise Wulff from MGH Aspire in Boston. This was part of a webinar series offered by CampLauncher. The topic was the importance of setting limits and pushing our kids to take on challenges in an effort to raise children who are resilient. You can watch a video of the webinar using the link below. In the meantime, here are a few of Debbie’s thoughts on the topic.
As parents, our job is to keep our kids safe while also trying to shape them into decent human beings who will one day be able to be ok without us. It often feels like we’re going against our parental instincts to force our kids to struggle. We need to shift our notion of our roles as parents. Helping our children – particularly those diagnosed with Autism or Aspergers – work through the struggle is what enables them to grow up to be independent and resilient.
There is a great deal of research published about the importance of raising children who have grit. I encourage you to read anything by Angela Duckworth, and to watch her TED Talk about Grit. In fact, she spoke to us at the largest gathering of camp professionals a few years ago and Eric and I were struck by how naturally camp works on teaching these important skills to campers with ASD and NVLD.
Camps force children to step outside of their comfort zones. Especially for children with ASD or NVLD – sticking with what’s comfortable and familiar is a first choice. If we were to allow our children to keep doing what makes them feel safest, they might never learn what they’re capable of. They may never learn new skills, make new friends, try new foods!
Camp is an example of a way that many parents choose to push their children in a healthy way to develop grit. Sleeping in a new place, living with 10 or so other people, swimming in a lake with fish, eating foods that might be different colors, textures, smells! Climbing a rock wall, going on a hike, petting a goat – these seem like simple tasks for some people but for many children, some of these tasks seem impossible or – more often, just don’t seem necessary. But when we encourage children (any child) to do something they think they can’t or say they won’t do, and then they see that they can do it – we have just taught them that the leap of faith makes it worth it. Then – the more they do that thing or have the experience of trying something less preferred, they get better and better at it and they are more likely to do something totally new the next time it comes up.
So, while the push might be hard for us as parents – and it takes effort, we know – at the end, it will be worth it.