Campfire Notes

Why Kids Need to Get Uncomfortable

Why Kids Need to Get Uncomfortable

As parents, we spend a lot of time making our kids comfortable. Feeling cold? I’ll grab you a sweatshirt. Hungry? Let me get you a snack right away! Kid being unkind? I’ll complain to the teacher and make her stop!

At times, I’ve felt like it’s my duty to alleviate any discomfort my child is feeling. I think a lot of parents feel this way during this unique era of “overparenting.” One friend described the “lawnmower” parent who grooms the path for their child to make it smooth and without any bumps.

Some of us by nature are more “gritty” than others, able to push ourselves and deal with discomfort. Think about endurance runners who stumble across the finish line, bloody and exhausted. Others of us are more prone to climbing deeper into our turtle shell when faced with life’s inevitable discomforts and challenges. We tend to hunker safely inside our comfort zone and not let anyone or anything pull us out.

No matter where our kid’s (or our own) starting point may be, it’s important to explore the concept of being uncomfortable and, as parents, learn to tolerate that discomfort when our kids are feeling anxious, nervous, or afraid.

It’s not easy. Our natural instinct is to protect our kids from any and all discomfort. And when they’re little, that natural instinct serves us (and them) well. We change dirty diapers, feed them when they’re hungry, grab them before they run into the street.

Emotional discomfort is even harder to handle as a parent. When a kid makes a mean comment to our child and hurts his or her feelings, we bristle. We want to alleviate the discomfort immediately, so we call the school, the other kid’s parents, and the FBI to come in and stop that horrid child from making our beloved feel uncomfortable.

How can we best help our kids develop into adults who persevere and can handle life’s inevitable setbacks?

We must learn to coach our children to tolerate their discomfort. If we help them figure out coping strategies, they will be better able to respond the next time an uncomfortable or painful situation arises. For our kids to develop their grit and learn to expand their comfort zone, we need to be supportive, engaged, and empathetic, without immediately swooping in to ease their discomfort.

Read the original post from which this blog was excerpted, Why Kids Need to Get Uncomfortable, at Sunshine Parenting.

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Audrey “Sunshine” Monke

Audrey “Sunshine” Monke has been the owner of Gold Arrow Camp since 1989. She is the author of the 2019 parenting book, Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults. “Sunshine” has been writing and podcasting about summer camp, well-being, social skills, and parenting at Sunshine Parenting since 2012.

More Resources

Sunshine Parenting Podcast

Happy Campers Book Info

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Why Kids Flourish at Camp

Why Kids Flourish at Camp

Traditionally, psychologists have focused on studying psychological diseases – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. – and their cures. But led by Martin Seligman  (University of Pennsylvania), a new breed of psychologists called Positive Psychologists have, for the past decade, been studying the positive side of people. They ask not what is wrong with people, but what is right. Originally, Seligman had a theory of “happiness” outlined in his book Authentic Happiness, but he moved away from only using the word “happiness” to a new theory that focuses instead on well-being or “flourishing.”

Seligman uses the acronym PERMA to define his theory and the five measurable elements he has determined lead to well-being. As I read about each pillar of PERMA in Seligman’s book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, I kept having “ah-ha” moments.  “This happens at camp!” I would think. “And this, too!” In fact, as I read, I determined that ALL of the elements of flourishing that Seligman describes happen at camp. According to Seligman, “No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it.”

PERMA at Camp

P: Positive Emotion
E: Engagement
R: Relationships
M: Meaning
A: Achievement

P: Positive Emotion
Positive emotion is exactly what it sounds like: feeling happy and having positive thoughts about yourself, the people around you, or your surroundings. At camp, positive emotions are the norm, not the exception. We’re singing; we’re dancing; we’re doing skits that don’t make sense but that cause us to laugh so hard our stomachs hurt. You can almost see a haze of happiness and fun surrounding everyone at camp.

E: Engagement
Seligman’s next element, engagement, describes when one is interested in and connected to what they are doing. At camp, kids are constantly exposed to new experiences and challenges – both recreational and social – that get them interested and excited to learn. They’re pushed to get outside their comfort zone and really engage.

R: Relationships
We all know that positive relationships are one of the main contributors to our happiness in life, so it’s no surprise that relationships are an important pillar of Seligman’s theory. Everyone comes to camp to see their old friends, make new friends, and just spend quality time connecting with others and building positive relationships. And camp is like no other place for that.

M: Meaning
According to Seligman, meaning comes from “belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger than the self.” Being a member of a cabin group at camp helps kids gain an understanding of how they are valued by others. For some kids, camp is the first place where they understand what it means to be a valued and accepted member of a community. Kids learn that they are important and valued members of their cabin group, and they discover their character strengths through recognition from peers and counselors.

A: Achievement
People flourish when pursuing goals or the mastery of a skill. Every day at camp, kids have the opportunity to try new things and master new skills. Some kids arrive at camp with a specific goal: a bull’s eye at archery or getting up on a slalom water ski. But others simply practice and work towards improving or challenge themselves to try something that frightens them – like completing the ropes course. And all of their progress and little achievements add to kids’ flourishing at camp.

 

Read the original post from which this blog was excerpted, Why Kids Flourish at Camp, at Sunshine Parenting.

image 6
Audrey “Sunshine” Monke

Audrey “Sunshine” Monke has been the owner of Gold Arrow Camp since 1989. She is the author of the 2019 parenting book, Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults. “Sunshine” has been writing and podcasting about summer camp, well-being, social skills, and parenting at Sunshine Parenting since 2012.

 

 

More Resources

Sunshine Parenting Podcast

Happy Campers Book Info

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