Humans are imaginative creatures. To a kid, anything can be a toy and any dream is attainable. As children grow, they develop something called learned helplessness: giving up because they believe nothing they do will make a difference. Society also trains them to believe that their dreams must fit inside a predetermined box. Our daughters watch their hopes and dreams slip away before ever getting a chance to act on them.
An individual is not helpless to make a difference, but children, who are still learning and impressionable, have a hard time seeing past their struggles and into the world of possibility. That is where you as a parent come in. You, who have lived so much more life than she has and can see the potential just brimming inside her, can help her dream big and keep her optimism for the future. Here are a few tips to help your daughter keep dreaming, even when those dreams don’t fit inside the box.
Ask Her What Makes Her Happy
If your daughter is struggling to keep her dreams, ask what makes her happy. Remind her that she has to live this life, not anyone else. If she is trying to build someone else’s dreams instead of her own, she won’t have the passion to follow through when the going gets tough.
Fitting in only makes you good at making other people happy. It is okay to accept that you won’t always be happy fitting in and that you need to pursue your own path. Leading a meaningful life is so much more important than making other people comfortable with your decisions.
Help Her Brainstorm a Plan
Nothing makes a dream feel unattainable like having no way to achieve it. Sit down with your daughter and help her brainstorm an action plan. Does she want to get a specific expensive degree? Research grants and loans together and find the best path for her. Does she want to start her own handmade business but can’t afford the materials? Come up with a list of ways she can earn money around school and other activities.
It is easy to become overwhelmed and feel it’s too hard to reach your goals. Maintaining optimism is about meeting those feelings head-on and working through the anxiety. Having an action plan alleviates the fear of the unknown.
Be a Role Model
Let’s face it, “Do as I say, not as I do” has never worked in the history of child rearing. Kids learn by watching the actions of the people around them. When they are struggling with how to be optimistic and keep hold of their dreams, children will mimic their parent’s actions.
Let your daughter watch you struggle to achieve a dream of yours. She needs to know that it is normal to want more out of life and that she can strive for it, just like you are. She needs to see that dreams come in all shapes and sizes.
Do you have trouble maintaining your optimism? Show your daughter how to learn optimistic behavior by modeling it in yourself. Face your goals, confront false beliefs about yourself, let the truth energize you to do better and reach farther. If her mom can dream big and keep optimistic in the face of not fitting in, so can she.
Here at Nongirly, we are building a community of support for moms and their daughters. If you would like to join us, visit our Facebook or visit more of our blog. We are here for every day of life raising strong, confident girls.