Room to Grow: Why Reflection and Mindfulness are Critical Skills for Children to Process Failure
By Robert Cole Powell
All parents wish for their children to succeed. Whatever it may be, such as in life, in sports, or in school, many parents go to great lengths to see that their child goes far in any field in which they show aptitude. However, what happens when children miss the mark? When these missteps are not tolerated, children can become anxious, depressed, and prone to emotional outbursts. While failure often results in feelings of distress and frustration, it is important for children to be able to process these feelings healthily and in a way that is productive for them to learn from their mistakes without shame, embarrassment, or ridicule. As failure is faced at all stages of life, it becomes essential that educators, as well as parents and guardians, better teach children how to fail in addition to supporting them through the negative emotive responses failure may elicit.
Mindfulness and thoughtful reflection provide the best avenue for navigating failure. When children are able to respond to failure instead of reacting, they are better suited to embrace the challenging situations with which they are faced. In practicing mindfulness, students do not fear failure; rather, they realize that mistakes enhance their learning. At school, teachers should take every student's failure as an opportunity to improve students’ learning, while not minimizing the students’ feelings. If a student feels embarrassed or humiliated by their failure, they should be allowed space to process this feeling. If the teacher feels the student needs more support, it is important that the teacher offer resources to the student, such as counseling or contacting the students’ parents to make an informed decision. While reserving space during class for mindfulness provides a route for students to process failure and turn it into something productive, counseling or therapy should not be discouraged. According to the CDC, only 6 in 10 children with anxiety are treated, as stigma surrounding mental health continue to exist. In centering mindfulness around failure-related anxiety, it’s clear that increasing counseling as an outlet for young students to learn how to process their feelings is beneficial in that it teaches students techniques to navigate their emotions. In any case, students must be given space free of judgment or shame, be it at home, the classroom, or in counseling, to thoughtfully reflect on their failures and persist toward success.