How courage is built: Part II

Clockwise: Meagan at 10 had mastered slicing mushrooms thinly; Meagan at 9 at a business dinner in Shanghai with my supplier colleague Grace; Meagan at 9 being interviewed on ABS-CBN; Marcus at 7 at our family adventure in Cubao; and Meagan and Marcus last 2020 at the Republic Fencing’s Young Musketeers Tournament.

AS I shared last week, courage is very much needed in overcoming today’s many uncertainties. Beyond this, it brings us to the reality that the predicaments our children will face tomorrow may be as unimaginable as how we never expected the continuing dire straits brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But beyond macro problems, courage for me is a fundamental value I have always found important. I always considered it as a game-changing value to becoming “life smart.” Courage is important in finding one’s personal voice. It allows us to boldly face our strengths and weaknesses, and love our own unique person. For kids, especially teens, courage is important in living through this “social media” world. In our own families, we need the courage to express our thoughts and affections. In our work or craft, we need to be proud of our hard work and our ideas. In our everyday lives, courage is needed to respect our own wants, and pursue life in our own terms.

Today, as reflected in the speech of my son Marcus that I shared last week, my once super shy boy has evolved into taking on leadership roles in group projects, speaking out his thoughts at home, and openly aiming toward being a professional athlete one day. For my daughter, Meagan at 15 continues to aim for multiple goals in academics, leadership and even fun goals like becoming a drummer. I am proud that if before she only aimed at competing in the SEA Games, she has now boldly announced to her coaches her desire to represent the Philippines in the Olympics for fencing one day. I have always encouraged my kids that there is no shame in not achieving a goal one has set out for himself. Instead, what I emphasized is that aiming and working for something big for oneself is already a rewarding journey on its own.

Below are some of tips in building courage in kids:

COURAGE STARTS AT PLAY. There are two particular type of activities for kids that I have found effective. First, allow kids to freely play alone. I remember the hours when my son in his toddler and preschool years would freely play with his blocks, animal figurines, or art materials without interruption. We would hear him do voices and create stories. Then he would pack away and move on to his next set of toys. I believe it made him more confident in making decisions, because he was allowed to hear his own wants. I believe this also allowed him to be comfortable with himself.

Second is play time that encourages trial-and-error. Puzzles and games are great for this. The ideal age for me to introduce puzzles to a child is at 2. Jumbo puzzles with only a few pieces make for a good start. My favorite trial-and-error activity involves chores using play toys for asking the order, preparing ingredients, cooking, serving, then cleaning up with a mop and broom—this would be ideal to start at 2 as well. So at 8, my daughter was already bold enough to cook real meals.  At the time, while she was cutting mushrooms, she accidentally cut herself and there was so much blood that I almost fainted, but we got it under control after 10 minutes. I thought she would never go to the kitchen again. Instead, she kept on wanting to learn and the photo in the collage shows Meagan at 10 comfortably slicing mushrooms thinly.

EXPOSE KIDS TO PEOPLE AND ACTIVITIES THAT TEACH COURAGE. When my son was in preschool, I often noticed he would hum a tune when he was playing. I enrolled him in voice lessons. After that semester, I noticed him being able to communicate more with both kids and adults.  His teacher even gave him a chance to join a school contest. This evolved to him showing an interest in the violin, which he plays up to this day.

That’s why I really liked the program Dr. Francis Xavier M. Dimalanta, MD, introduced, called Play SMART (Sports, Music, Arts, Reading, Theater), where he recommends to give ample variety for children to choose their interest, while building resilience and confidence in them to take ownership of their skills.

The photos I share here are some of the activities I would do for my kids. I have them to business trips. After Meagan tried Repertory Philippines one summer, she gained confidence to model and be on TV. Both my kids continue to engage in sports activities like fencing and basketball.

FOSTER EMOTIONAL STRENGTH AND CONFIDENCE. I always make the effort to enter my kids’ world of interest. In my weekly one-on-one time with each child, I would follow his or her lead. When my son was into Animal Kaiser games, I would play with him in the arcade. When he was into Yokai, I asked him what each character was. We also like going on impromptu family adventures. One Saturday afternoon, I was visiting an employee’s event in Cubao, and my son needed a haircut. As seen on a photo in the collage, my husband just took him to this small dark barber shop that was so different than what he was used to. Lastly, encourage prayer. I always share with my kids how faith has helped me find courage in the toughest situations.

Let’s all build courage in our kids and our families, one bold step at a time, and show this pandemic that we will come out of this strong.  Happy courage-building, everyone.

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