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Impact of stable caring adult: Help a child develop resilience, confidence and problem solving techniques

  • September 16, 2018
The past two months, I’ve been working on a new business venture. It has COMPLETELY consumed my life.  And pretty much the lives of all of ‘my people’. Especially my dad. That new business venture?  AirBnB.  Yep, I jumped on the bandwagon. Bought a house in the cutest little neighborhood a mile from uptown and have fitted it out for daily, weekly and/or monthly renters. It’s been super fun and I’ve learned a LOT. And, when I couldn’t figure something out….or was just too tired to figure it out (or didn’t want to)…I called my dad. He listened to EVERY.LITTLE.DETAIL about the house, whether he wanted to or not, whether he had the time, or not. He responded to my calls and texts. He ran errands and bought stuff for the house. He shared his wisdom about home ownership and starting a business.
My dad has supported me through every life change and decision I’ve made.  In high school, he would pick me up from tennis, swimming and soccer practices. I was always involved in something and he was always there. [pretty much still how we operate]  Years later, I decided I wanted to move to Mexico and he supported me (ok, well, actually I think he and my mom both thought I was crazy….but he (and she) eventually came around and were huge supports, even visiting me in Mexico City.)  He (and my mom and sister) came to visit when I lived in London. And, he’s joined me on business trips to Dubai and Africa.  He’s spent hours with me on the phone (sometimes at crazy hours of the night for him because I was in a random country) and many more via text.  We would talk about all the important stuff (job, dating, family and friends) and also about the day’s minutia (weather, new clothes, cars, etc.).
He helped me develop the resilience, confidence and problem solving techniques that I have today.  And to be honest, they are still insufficient.  I STILL text my dad daily for support. Sometimes I just need a “hey” and sometimes, well, I need him to just take care of a mess for me.  Like the ants who just would NOT go away at the new AirBnB.  They are now gone. Hallelujah!  Thanks, Dad!
I was lucky. I had TWO parents who instilled resilience, confidence, problem solving and so many other life skills that propelled me into adulthood….and support me to this day.
But, so many children do not have a parent who can do that for them. This is where ‘other adults’ in their lives are paramount. And, how God provides in the absence of a biological parent.
Often these ‘other adults’ are teachers, coaches, family or family friends. They can also be adults from church or community programs. What’s important is that the adult is stable and caring and that there is an established relationship that is more than a once-off exchange.  You aren’t going to change a child’s life by popping into a toy give-away. Change happens through sustained relationships. [sorry, I’ll get off my soap box now]
Read Charlotte has figured this out. Volunteers read with a child on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The same adult. The same child. Sometimes year over year.  Lives are shared and lives are changed.
When these ‘other adults’ make a kid feel like they matter, it reduces delinquency and destructive behavior according to a new study from the University of Kansas [you can read a summary of the study here.]
That makes so much sense to me.
Growing up, I knew that I mattered to my parents. Because they told me. I yearned to do well, for them, and for myself. I took measured risks because I had self-worth….because they told me I mattered. And, they told me that I mattered to God.
Mentors matter.
From the Kansas study: “Past research has shown positive correlations between mentoring relationships and increased levels of social capital, like self-esteem, education and employment achievements for adolescents as well as lower rates of some types of problem behavior.”
“If you are made to feel useful and important to others, especially in this case by a non-kin and education-based mentor, then you are more likely to have a reduction in delinquency and dangerous behavior,” said Margaret Kelley, associate professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas.
A stable, caring adult can have life-changing impact on a child’s life. That’s why, in my humble opinion [gained through experience and the referenced research] programs need to do more than just fill time. After school programming is great. But ‘programs’ don’t have the impact on a child’s life like relationships have in building accountability. Kids need to know that they matter. That we see them.  That they are accepted. That they are loved.  They need to be told this over and over and over.
We need more “other adults” in kids lives.  To reduce delinquency and increase social capital….. this will translate into improving upward mobility.
Do you know that you matter?  To God and to “your people”.  Share the value of self-worth with the children in your life.  Help them develop resilience, confidence and problem-solving skills. Develop co-transformative relationships. Yes, you will impact their lives, but they will also impact yours.

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