Saint Ignatius College Geelong

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    Parenting Ideas Insights

    Helping Kids Tolerate Discomfort

    Few right-minded people want children or young people to experience hardships or difficulty. However growing up generally means that kids will experience their fair share of hardships, frustrations and challenges which lead to uncomfortable feelings.

    Exercising their discomfort muscles

    Tolerating discomfort is an important resilience skill. It refers to an ability to sit with an uncomfortable or emotionally painful feeling such as disappointment, apprehension, nervousness or fear. These emotions can be brought about as a result of not being picked for a team; getting lower than expected marks for an assignment; or going into new, unfamiliar situation such as school camp. These are the sorts of every day situations that can make some kids feel uncomfortable. It’s helpful to think of discomfort as a ‘muscle’ that gets stronger with training. Each time a child or teen successfully tolerates discomfort they’re reinforcing their ability to do so and cementing the knowledge that they can overcome emotional challenges.

    Opportunities to practise tolerating discomfort

    Opportunities for practice are plentiful and are found in common situations such as when a child or teen is: feeling hungry; wanting something they can’t have; having to end screen time; contributing to household chores when they don’t feel like it; missing out on a job interview; asking someone on a date or not receiving a party invitation.

    It’s not toughing it out

    Tolerating discomfort doesn’t mean toughing out an unbearable situation. It’s teaching your anxious child to notice how they’re feeling, naming their emotions, and practising acceptance of difficult feelings as they occur. This is done in the knowledge that what they’re experiencing is temporary and that they’re lovingly supported by a warm and comforting adult. Couple tolerating discomfort with social rewards (such as words of praise or shared fun activity) for coping behaviours and you’re helping to build their personal resilience.

    Michael Grose

    Michael Grose, founder of Parenting Ideas, is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s the author of 10 books for parents including Thriving! and the bestselling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It, and his latest release Spoonfed Generation: How to raise independent children. 

     

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