Our Super-Successful Kids Are Struggling! How to Help Them Thrive

Last updated on June 12th, 2021 at 01:06 pm

Worried child in front of graffitiWhat if I told you that 1 out of every 3 kids age 6 to 11 is afraid that the Earth won’t exist when they grow up???

WHO are these children??? What if I told you that little kid you just kissed goodnight,,, who got an A on his test…who practiced her cello for hours… what if I told you they were the ones who said it. What if instead I told you they believed it and told NO ONE??? How is it possible this is happening??

Parents, meet the “Running on Empty” Generation – smart and dearly loved, inclusive and open-minded, well-educated with high aspirations for college and their future. From the outside everything you want and more for your child. But take a second look. These kids are less happy, more stressed, lonely, depressed, and suicidal than ANY other generation… and that was BEFORE COVID!

“We are college and career ready, but sure aren’t ‘human’ ready.” Erin, 16 years old

We are raising a generation of “strivers” – kids that are wonderful at reaching for the brass ring, but never feel good enough. We haven’t given them basic survival tools so when the real challenges hit, they often quit because they don’t have the inner reserve that helps them get through it…

“My parents do everything for me. My biggest worry when I leave home is that I’m going to flunk life.” 17-year-old straight-A student, headed for Yale

Surprisingly, despite today’s kids living through the most stressed time in known history – terrorism, lockdown drills, daily pandemic death counts, insurrections, food insecurity, failing power grids, climate crises and racial violence – some kids are not only surviving, but they’re also thriving.

They are bouncing back despite adversity. WHY?

In her new book THRIVERS, Dr. Michele Borba, Ed. D. shares with us the answer.

In the end, these kids – the Thrivers –manage adversity, develop healthy relationships, and embrace change. They are ready and deal proactively with whatever the world throws at them – even in uncertain times, not because of genes, GPA, IQ or a special skill or talent, but through reliance on a few character strengths they learned along the way that helped them steer their lives in a positive direction – helped them PICK THEMSELVES UP whenever their worlds came crashing down.

It is these seven essential Character Strengths that set Thrivers apart and set them up for happiness and greater accomplishment later in life. Self-confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism – each of these helps safeguard our kids against the depression and anxiety that threatens to derail them. And best of all, these strengths are not something we are born with: from toddler to teen, these can be taught!

But where should you start?? THRIVERS is organized into three parts allowing parent to focus on strengths by category. It’s helpful to understand your child’s “superpowers” – what they’re already good at and can nurture – as well as areas that could use further development.

Consider how you would rate your child on the following: 5 = always, 4 = frequently, 3 = sometimes, 2 = rarely, 1 = never

My Child:

  1. Speaks mostly positively about herself, rarely negatively.
  2. Displays concern and wants to help when someone is treated unfairly or unkindly.
  3. Can be trusted to do the right thing and keep his word even when no one is looking.
  4. Able to manage her own impulses and urges without adult help.
  5. Intrigued or easy to motivate about trying something new, different, or surprising.
  6. Does not become upset when something is difficult; rarely quits but keeps trying.
  7. Can find the silver lining in a hardship or challenge.

As I’m sure you guessed each of these questions represents one of the 7 Character Strengths and is part of a longer assessment that will help you evaluate where your child is right now so you can determine which traits are their natural strengths and which traits need to be encouraged.

Know that these traits are cumulative: each character strength improves a child’s thriving potential as well as academic performance but is always more powerful when combined with another because they create a Multiplier Effect.

Self-Confidence + Curiosity increases self-knowledge and builds self-assuredness and creativity.

Self-Control + Perseverance boosts the chance of reaching a goal and achieving success.

Empathy + Curiosity helps find common ground and strengthens relationships.

At this point some of you may be thinking…yes this all sounds good, but bottom line, I’ve got to give my child every advantage so they can get into the right school because everything depends on that.

But does it? According to Dr. Borba these amazing, brilliant, talented kids are checking out – the urgency in writing this book came from an email from a distraught mom looking for help from her community:

“We have forty dead kids in two-and-a-half years to suicide within a twenty-mile radius. Most are white, affluent, high achieving males who did not use drugs but hung themselves. Most look like your kids and mine. The last seven have been females – two with guns.”

“It’s like we’re being produced to be test takers. We’re missing the pieces on how to be people.” Aaron, 12 years old

The epidemic of unhappy Strivers is real, but it’s not inevitable. We can do something about it. As Dr. Borba says “all our energy has gone into stretching kids’ cognitive abilities and neglecting their human side – the source of energy, joy, inspiration and meaning. The good news: focusing on character can flip that equation and teach your kids how to find happiness, calm and wonder in the world.

But we NEED to pay attention… We SHOULD be worried… WE NEED to listen!!

“There’s an amazing amount of depression and anxiety. Seventy percent of my friends are in therapy; forty percent are on medication. We’re hurting but nobody does anything until another kid is suicidal.” Ava, 15 years old.

One last thought that I’d like to finish with. It is terrifying that our children – even the young ones – go to sleep worried about global warming, pandemics, racial violence, school shootings… the list goes on and on. It is even more terrifying that many of them don’t believe their generation will live to see the future. But there is something Dr. Borba’s book reminded me of that I’d like to share with you, and maybe you can share it with your kids.

Years ago a man named Fred Rogers brought optimism, love and hope to families across the country – and in these dark times we could all use a little of his outlook. With each new terror – each bombing, virus, terrorist attack, natural disaster, hate crime or mass shooting we wonder, “what shall we tell our children?” Fred Rogers had the perfect answer:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers, so many caring people in this world”.

My belief, and the reason I share this with all of you, is that this current generation of kids is in pain and they are struggling. Dr. Michele Borba (and THRIVERS) is one of the helpers.

Editors Note: all quotes included in this article, including those attributed to individual children and Fred Rogers can be found in THRIVERS: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine

****************************************************************************************************************************

Thrivers Book CoverAcross the nation, student mental health is plummeting, major depression rates among teens and young adults are rising faster than among the overall population, and younger children are being impacted. As a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years, Dr. Michele Borba has never been more worried than she is about this current generation of kids. In THRIVERS, Dr. Borba explains why the old markers of accomplishment (grades, test scores) are no longer reliable predictors of success in the 21st century – and offers 7 teachable traits that will safeguard our kids for the future. She offers practical, actionable ways to develop these Character Strengths (confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism) in children from preschool through high school, showing how to teach kids how to cope today so they can thrive tomorrow. THRIVERS is now available at amazon.com.

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team

Comments

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!