As coaches at Soccer Shots, we spend countless hours a day, influencing young minds. We remind them to keep their bodies safe, to respect friends and toys, and to ask for help when they need it. In fact, when I am on the field, “I can’t do it…” is one of my least favorite things to hear, and I immediately respond with, ” let’s try one more time together,” or “you can say… I need help, please.”
When I heard about Robin Williams’ passing yesterday, as an educator, and a counselor, I couldn’t help but think to myself… What happened? At what age does asking for help go out of style? What makes it so difficult to have hard conversations? How do we prevent these things from happening…?
Some of my favorite characters crossed my mind a hundred times. Genie in Aladdin, Lovelace in Happy Feet, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Jack, Alan Parrish in Jumanji (even though I was terrified of that movie for quite some time), Professor Phillip Brainard in Flubber, Peter Pan in Hook, John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting… the list goes on and on.
Working with kids, we are consistently modeling the behavior we want to see from them. If we want them to dribble their soccer ball, we dribble with them. If we want them to sit criss-cross applesauce, we sit with them.
At age 3 and 4, a seemingly hard conversation might start with, “you have short hair, are you a boy or a girl?” Or, “that bug isn’t moving anymore, what happened to it?” But, as mentors, coaches, educators, friends, and parents, we have to have the hard conversations. We have to model this behavior too, so that at some point, kids (who become adults) don’t shy away from these conversations.
Here are some tips for having hard conversations with kids:
1. Listen and acknowledge. Recognize feelings, and provide reassurance or comfort if needed.
2. Ask and answer questions without judgement. Find out what your child thinks or already knows. Try to stay openminded.
3. Be honest. Know yourself. Take time to think of a response if needed. Follow through, make a point to revisit the conversation if you say you need time.
4. Explain simply. Tailor your response to the child’s age and developmental level.
5. Keep the lines of communication open. Provide encouragement to come back and talk more if needed.
“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” – Robin Williams as Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting
If you, or someone you know, needs help or even just someone to talk to, know that there are always options.