“I can do it by myself,” my three-year-old friend tells me as she struggles with her winter jacket on what we both hope is the last cold day she has to wear the heavy coat this year.
It’s spring and we both feel like it’s time to move on to new things. For her, that means taking up the space that her growing mind and body demand.
“I can do it by myself,” she says again. “But I can ask for help if I want.”
I recognize these words. I remember the day I gave up on my oldest ever wearing matching socks or putting her boots on the right feet. It was blissful.
So, I put my hands in my pockets. My young friend continues to struggle with the annoying zipper with patience and determination until it’s obvious this isn’t going to happen.
“I need some help now,” she says without a hint of shame or disappointment.
Together we get the job done and head outside into the sun to soak up those spring rays – both feeling a little taller for our efforts. Her words stick with me, though.
I can do it by myself.
I can do it by myself – but I can ask for help, too.
I need help.
Imagine if we all memorized this three-line mantra when we were three years old.
Imagine if we were told we could solve problems all by ourselves, the way every toddler believes they can until we hover, and fuss, and worry them out of the thought. Imagine if we were also told that even with all this confidence – we might fail. Maybe a lot. And when we do, it’s okay to ask for help.
And the kicker? Imagine if we actually asked for help. This seems to be the toughest part for us as we try to prove we can cope in our stress-laden world.
Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health issue in Canadian children and youth, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
And the kids are not alone.
Parents have plenty to be anxious about these days. But you won’t see that stress on social media and parenting sites where parents can spend hours scrolling through the impossibly perfect lives of people who don’t seem to need any help at all.
Still, CMHA experts say there’s plenty of hope. They tell us we can help ourselves and our kids by boosting resilience in our little ones. For starters, they say, just sit back and let your child figure out their own answers to a few of life’s little problems. Let them fail, whether it’s how to do their zipper up, or what clothes they wear.
This failure will build resilience by reminding your kids – and you – that they’ll survive those little mistakes. This one small step can take pressure off parents to be perfect and all-knowing. And wouldn’t that be nice for a change?
Those mental health experts also agree that asking for help is vital. Sure, be there when your child asks for help. But also seek out help yourself. Whether it’s letting a friend know you could use an extra hand or reaching out to local resources. You’ll feel more connected and supported.
It starts with the small stuff, just like my young friend teaches me every day.
I can do it by myself.
I can do it by myself – but I can ask for help too.
I need help
So, let’s zip up our zippers. Put our boots on the right feet. And head outside and play in the Spring sunshine – together. Truth is, we can’t do this by ourselves.
Lynn Easton writes for the Ridge Meadows Early Childhood Development