Problems in life may seem to come one after the other, especially when you’re young. In one afternoon, a child might spill red paint on the table, get muddy water in their boots, and lose a favorite toy. What to do? Get mad and complain? Or tackle these situations head-on?
This week we talked about problems like hurdles on a track. Some kids might grumble, kick or yell that they’re not fair. Others may decide to leap over them. What would you do? During launch, I asked the heroes what advice they would give to a child who was stuck behind a hurdle. One piped right up. “I would tell him to jump!” And jump, I believe, they would.
An outdoor mission this week followed on that same theme. The heroes were invited to make themselves or their siblings an obstacle course using objects they had around the yard or garage. I saw footage of heroes jumping through hoops, balancing on pool noodles, and jumping off of playhouse roofs. Even if they didn’t quite grasp the obstacle course as a metaphor for life, I couldn’t help but imagine them bobbing and weaving, pirouetting, and running when life’s challenges came their way.
But while it might seem fun to leap over obstacles in a game, it’s not so easy to scramble over the stumbling blocks of real life. A sticky mess, painful scrape, or shouting match with a sibling—none of these is fun. So how can we nudge kids to see these problems as hurdle-like opportunities they can surmount?
One thing guides try to do in the studio is model the approach. We might say we are perplexed, explain how we feel, and then talk through step-by-step how we could put things right. We might even ask heroes’ advice about the best course of action.
We also try to help heroes recognize that they can solve their own problems. After we acknowledge that it’s a hard situation and label their feelings as valid, we may offer a way to reframe or give a choice of actions. “It sounds like this is a tough problem. What would you tell a friend in a similar situation? How could you turn this into an opportunity? Would you prefer to do X, Y, or Z?”
Lastly, we might ask their advice when a fellow hero (or at home, a sibling) has run into a difficulty. “It seems like Maeve is having a tough time waiting for her turn to use the toy John has. What advice could you give her?”
It is certainly a long process, but little by little we can help show our heroes that their problems don’t have to get them down. They can be part of life’s rich experiences, and they can mold us into more resilient human beings!