These five elements will help you to recognise, understand and ultimately meet your children’s needs as they grow up to be copped-on young people.
1 Containment: In the same way a box keeps its contents from spilling everywhere, Colman believes children need a caring parental presence in their lives. This helps them feel psychologically safe as they learn how to regulate their behaviour and emotions.
Build a containing relationship with your children by being approachable and non-judgemental. Listen to them and try to understand their views.
2 Structure: Children learn through repetition and thrive when their lives are structured. Getting the balance right is vital.
Too much structure means children are unable to amuse themselves and can become overwhelmed by all that’s expected of them. Too little means they won’t develop skills of regulation and routine.
3 Support: Let your children know you are there to provide nurture, guidance and love, no matter what. There will be periods when they need intensive support and periods when they will need less — balance is the key. You need to allow them to do and learn things by themselves but you shouldn’t withdraw too much support before they are ready.
4 Validation: This is the sense of being heard and it’s essential in cultivating self-esteem in children. Listen to your children when they talk to you. Try to see what they are saying from their perspective.
This is not the same as agreeing with them because validation is a two-way process. You listen to your teenager telling you why she wants to pierce her nose; she must then listen to why you think it’s not the right thing for her to do.
5 Involvement: Parents should gradually involve children in making decisions about their own lives. This allows them to learn how to make good decisions themselves. A toddler who refuses to eat can be involved in choosing and preparing his food. A teenager who is angry about not being allowed to stay out late can be involved in devising a plan where she demonstrates responsibility by sticking to successively later curfews.
Colman Noctor is a child and adolescent psychotherapist with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. He specialises in the treatment of emotional disorders. His book, Cop On. What it is and why your child needs it to thrive and survive in today’s world is now available nationwide and in the Gill Books Online shop (RRP €16.99, our price for limited time only: €13.59). Buy now!
Also available as an ebook on Amazon.
"Want to help your kids survive in today’s world? Teach them to cop on." - The Journal.ie
"[This] new book aims to help parents and children foster better relationships as they navigate the age of new technology." - Sharon Ní Chonchúir, Irish Examiner
"In Cop On, a new book for parents, leading child and adolescent psychotherapist and father of three Colman Noctor says we need to teach our children cop on if they are to survive and thrive in today’s world." - HerFamily.ie